The Art of Compromise
Author: DebC
E-mail: debchilson@yahoo.com
Archiving: To "God, I Hope He Marries Me" (http://jjxpfc.crosswinds.net/smallville/index.html), my site and the places I archive it myself.
Rating: PG
Keywords: family, domestic situations
Pairing: Jonathan/Martha
Series: None
Spoilers: Nocturne
Disclaimers: The Kents, the Luthors, and other denizens of Smallville herein mentioned belong to... well, not me, that's for sure! ;-)
Summary: Martha's new job prompts a re-evaluation of priorities.

Author's Notes: This is for my best friend, who loves Jonathan/Martha, because it will cheer her up and because I love her.

"The Art of Compromise"

Jonathan Kent watched, frowning, as his wife packed a small over-night bag. Lex had called first thing in the morning, sounding very apologetic, to say that his father *needed* to be in Metropolis by noon and that he planned to stay until the next day. He didn't give an estimated return time, but said that his father expected Martha--as his assistant--to go with him.

"You're sure this is what you want to do, Martha?" her husband asked.

"It isn't a matter of what I want, Jonathan. It's my job."

"That's what I meant! The job! Martha, it's--"

She stopped packing long enough to wrap her arms around his waist, sufficiently shushing him with a soft kiss. "I know. It's Lionel Luthor, and you don't trust him as far as you could throw him."

"Or as far as Clark could throw him," Jonathan admitted with a rueful chuckle.

His wife gave a small smile. "But you *can* trust me, Jonathan," she told him. "I know this is going to take some getting used to, but I really feel like I need to do this."

"I know," he told her. "I understand." He did, too. It was difficult watching his wife and partner of all these years start a new job. It felt like she was taking a step away from him, even if he knew she wasn't. It was a job, and thanks to her negotiations, a well-paying job--one that would bring in a little extra money for the family. He couldn't argue that they needed the money, although he certainly wished there was another way to get it than becoming Lionel Luthor's personal slave. "I just wish--" She cut him off with a more romantic kiss.

The kiss was broken somewhat prematurely when they both heard a sharp rapping on the downstairs door. Soon an unfamiliar voice rang out, floating up the stairs to them. "Mrs. Kent? Hello? Mr. Luthor sent me to pick you up. Hello?"

She gave her husband a sympathetic smile as she zipped the overnight bag and hoisted it over her shoulder. Still frowning, he followed her down the stairs.

~*~

"What do you mean you have to stay another day?" Jonathan Kent scowled at the phone in his hand. From the kitchen table, his son winced. "Martha! Tell him no, or I'm coming to get you myself." He paused, listening to her protests. "No!" he said adamantly. "The man has no consideration for anyone, and certainly not this family!" another pause and then a rather dejected "Good-bye."

He sighed, sinking into a chair beside his son. "Mom's not going to be coming home tonight, is she?" he asked.

"No, son, she's not," Jonathan informed him. He looked around the house, frowning. The kitchen was a total wreck; there was dirty laundry upstairs--probably growing mold--and a million other things that needed to be done. All were things that Martha usually did during the week. He sighed. "I don't think this job thing is going to work out," he commented.

"But Mom wants to do it. She told me enjoyed the challenge."

"She did?"

"Yeah. That..." Clark looked hesitant. "That's not a problem, is it, Dad? Cuz, you and I can handle things around here by ourselves. I know we can."

Jonathan hadn't imagined that his wife might actually enjoy working outside of the farm, but it did make sense in a way. She was a smart, no, brilliant woman and she'd basically been wasting her life on his pathetic little farm, he thought bitterly, the taste of sour grapes in his mouth. If this... if this job made her feel useful, then he should be happy for her. As hard as that was. To do so, he'd have to be willing to admit that their life wasn't how he'd expected it to turn out. He knew it wasn't, but it still hurt to do so.

"There will be a lot of extra stuff to do, you know," he told his son.

"I know."

"You'll have to come straight home from school. No stopping at the Talon." He paused, thinking of how that might sound--like he was trying to stifle his son as much as he had his wife. "At least until we get into a routine, anyway."

Clark nodded. "Sounds fair."

"You don't mind?" his father inquired.

Clark shook his head. "Well, I do miss Mom's cooking," the boy quipped. "But I think I can do a little extra if it helps her. Besides," he said with a shrug. "Lex says his father goes through assistants like Kleenex. Even he doesn't think this will last."

"What if it does?"

"Then we make the best of it."

Jonathan Kent nodded slowly. He didn't like it. In fact, he really hated it, but then he remembered her asking him to trust her judgment, and he knew what he had to do. "Deal," he told his son resolutely. If this was really what Martha wanted, they'd make it work, somehow.

~*~

It was *not* going to work.

As Jonathan and Clark watched, the washing machine jerked and rattled, seeming to take on a life of it's own. "Exactly... how much of the laundry did you put in the machine, Clark?" he asked, turning to see the stunned look on his son's face.

"Ah... all of it?"

All of it? There had to have been at least three loads on the bathroom floor. "You know, I'm not sure the washing machine was meant to handle of that at once, son. Do you?" As if on queue, the machine jumped again and started making a whining noise. Clark shook his head mutely. "We need to stop it," Jonathan told him and received a nod this time. "Do you think you can... catch it and hold it still?"

"Sure, I can try." He hesitated, assessing the situation, and lunged at the appliance in super-speed.

Once Clark had wrestled it into submission, his father lifted the lid, thereby forcing it to stop on its own. Both men heaved a sigh of relief, and Clark began to remove some of the excess clothes, returning them to the dirty clothes hamper.

Suddenly he stopped, sniffing the air. "Dad? Do you smell something burning?"

Also sniffing, Jonathan groaned. "Dinner!"

~*~

"Jonathan! Clark!"

Her voice carried all the way out to the back yard where the Kent men stood folding clothes as they took it off the clothesline.

"Hey, you two... I'm home," she said as she rounded the corner. Her husband peeked around the towel he was reaching for to smile at her.

"Just in time for dinner, too. If you're hungry, that is?"

"Oh... " she seemed hesitant. "I didn't expect to have to come home and cook." She sounded weary.

"You don't have to cook, Mom," Clark countered. "There's a roast in the oven and I made salad. We were just getting the clothes down before we got busy and forgot."

"Speaking of that, son," his father told him. "You might want to go check on that roast and set the table. I'll finish up here."

As Clark trotted off towards the house, Martha approached the clothesline. Reaching for a clothespin, she watched her husband closely.

"Dinner? House chores? Who are you, and what have you done with my family?"

Jonathan laughed self-consciously. "Clark and I just thought it would make things easier on you if you didn't have to come home to more work."

"Does this mean you're okay with my working?" she asked.

"No," he said honestly "and I doubt I ever will be, but honey, if it makes you happy, that's all that matters."
"Oh, Jonathan..." she dropped the washcloth she was folding into the wicker basket at their feet and came instantly to his arms.

He held her tightly, refusing to lighten his grip even when she surprised him with a long over-due kiss. "I'm sorry I doubted you," he said when they finally came up for air.

"Really?" When he nodded, she said, "Good, because Lionel asked me to come in and work tomorrow."

"On a Saturday?" He couldn't hide the annoyance in his voice.

She nodded, and leaned in to kiss him again. "I told him that if he wanted me to work for him, he'd have to accept that my weekends were about my family, and if he didn't like it, he could find a new assistant."

Jonathan laughed heartily. *This* was the spunky, self-assured woman he fell in love with. "You'll have to tell me how he took it... after I kiss you," he informed her before doing just that.