Rated: PG
Category: Drama
Spoilers: Covenant, Crusade
Description: Please Mister Postman, look and see, if there's a letter in your bag for me?
Notes: Just my way of helping us all hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Not mine.
Feedback: I fiend for it.
"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

"When life hands you lemons, make lemonade."

"Life only asks of you what it thinks you can handle."

Collectively, such adages had become "Chicken Soup for the Kent Soul," the unofficial mantras by which they lived a life cluttered with more than their fair share of hardship. Martha had long grown accustomed to bad crops, barely managed debt, burdensome secrets and crushing fatigue. She had learned to content herself on thrift-store fashion, low-budget entertainment, only one very good son, and a simple but salt-of-the-earth husband.

But even when they were one bad crop away from foreclosure, when she longed for the child exiled in Metropolis, and when she had watched Jonathan overtaken with illness and despair - even in those times, she had never clung so fiercely to the ounces of dubious truth in the clich├ęs that even she had quoted far too many times.

Everything in Martha's life was dismal and chaotic. Her nights were spent keeping vigil at Jonathan's side, her days spent keeping their life afloat. She was always hungry, but never had an appetite. She hid when friends called, but craved company when the people didn't come. She laughed at her neighbors' misfortunes and wept at their triumphs. The sky was green, the grass was blue. Left was right and up was wrong. Some days she felt she had a handle on this thing; everything would be all right. And then somedays...

Some days, like today, she found herself up at four o'clock in the morning, weeping and feverishly scrubbing the bathroom floor with a mixture of Ajax, sweat, and her own shed tears. She was consumed with thoughts of organic tomatoes rotting on the vine, a beautiful, beautiful son rotting in a wall, a weary husband rotting in a bed, and her own self rotting from the flesh. Her life had been snatched from her, right before her eyes, and even then she hadn't seen it coming. She was hoping against hope, but all she had to show for her dedication were two empty beds upstairs that hadn't been touched in weeks. She felt her endurance wearing thin. She collapsed where she was before crawling, crawling to her bed, where she fell asleep, exhausted and battle-worn.

She awoke to what her groggy mind would realize was banging at the door. Squinting, she looked to her left - it was ten o'clock. Startled, she sat up - how did the hours get away from her? She hurriedly made her way to the front door, but the banging stopped before she made it. She looked outside to find a young courier retreating down the walk.

"Sir?" she called. He turned around. He wordlessly made his way back, handed her a clipboard, which, after briefly examining it, she signed.

"Tough night?" he asked, a sly look in his eye.

"Hmm," Martha grunted, still a little dazed.

"See ya later," he said, as he sped away.

Sitting on the porch, she examined the letter, not knowing what to expect: further harassment from the insurance company? threats from the credit bureau? charity from her father? maybe, a note from Clark? She dismissed that idea outright.

Upon opening the letter, she could scarcely believe her eyes.

Dearest Martha,

Despite my current circumstances, I have heard of your recent troubles. Please know that you have my deepest sympathy, and that you often frequent my thoughts.

XXXXXXXXXXXX Sincerely,

Lionel

Martha gazed at the page with infinite wonder. Lionel's lifestyle was thoroughly managed and very remote. He made appointments through secretaries, was quoted through his spokesperson, and cloaked his statements in rhetoric. He even seemed to have raised his son by proxy, as much of Lex's childhood was spent overseas. And yet, here in her hands, she held the most organic of specimens: a letter, a note, from Lionel Luthor on unpretentious paper in his own hand.

She read the words again. "You often frequent my thoughts."

The second reading sent a chill through her. Not the kind of chill of hearing quickening footsteps coming down an alley, or of having a fiend breathing down your neck.

It was the chill of a furtive glance. The chill of a tender touch. The chill of eyes in eyes, hands in hands, and arms in arms.

It was the chill she had sworn, so many months ago, that she would never allow herself to feel again.

She pushed herself up and towards the kitchen and towards the garbage can. She wouldn't wallow there, vulnerable, lonely, and craving. She wouldn't ignore the fact that he hadn't actually mentioned Jonathan, or that "Affectionately" was so deftly crossed out. She stood over the can, poised with letter in hand, and, after a firm breath, dropped it ever so delicately in.

She strolled away, one step, then two...

And stopped. She closed her eyes. "You will leave it there, Martha," she told herself, "You will bury that letter, you will bury those months...you will bury that chill."

And yet, a moment later, she found herself standing over the can, motionlessly debating, wrestling with herself...staring at the only proof that somewhere, she existed and mattered to someone other than in her own stress-addled, heartsick mind. And the thought chilled her.