Title: Io and Adamanthea
Rating: R for themes.
Fandom: Smallville/Superman Returns.
Notes: Adamanthea is the name of the nymph who raised Jupiter, Io is Jupiter's lover, doomed to roam the world. Io is also a moon of the planet Jupiter; one of its least hospitable ones, unlike Europa which is thought to, possibly, contain life. Is set pre-Echoing Street Signs and Devolution, Act Three, but a lot of the exposition is done for this in those two.
Also, I've never been to Jerusalem, so I tried to keep the details rather fuzzy. All mistakes are my own.
Summary: They never asked to be left behind, but then, they never asked to be dragged along either. Not really.
The first time Chloe gets kidnapped after Superman disappears, she's held for three days in something resembling a yurt on the border between Jordan and Syria. It's a crash-course in reality for her. She's not raped, that time, but only because the people who'd grabbed her had been extremists who believed that touching her in a way other than violent beatings would make them as impure as she is.
The paper, bless them, pays her ransom and near sundown on the third day, she's beaten unconscious. She wakes up in an Israeli hospital with a compound fracture to the left arm, four broken ribs, and the knowledge that she'd been dumped on the steps of the American Embassy, bleeding and dehydrated. The ambassador had probably even seen her underwear.
It's a violent awakening. She manages to rip out her IV line and scare the hell out of the Physician's Assistant who'd been taking her vitals. Which is something considering where and how the woman made her living. There isn't much you didn't see in Israeli hospitals.
Later, she regrets her first words. Because Clark is gone and really, she hadn't called him anything but 'Superman' in years. She hates that she asks for him. Hates herself and the situation and that she's still scared the men are going to come back.
She doesn't go back to sleep that night, even doped to the eyeballs.
The damage to her ribs is bad enough - apparently, one of those broken ribs is hanging by a thread and threatening her lung - that she has to spend a week in recovery. She cries through the first few days. Stares distantly at the ceiling and past the bouquet of flowers from Lois, the card from her editor, and an increasingly freaked-out stack of letters from her father, and she starts to question, for the very first time ever, her decision to do this work. She doesn't have backup, reluctant though it is in the end, anymore.
She's out here, out there, by herself. That had never happened before. It had never even occurred to her as a possibility. But everything is different now.
Until that very moment, she had never realized how entirely alone she is.
She takes a deep breath then, deep and long, she holds it in until her ribs start to ache and spots blink in the periphery of her vision. Lets it out long and low, like the air being let from a balloon.
She remembers the eyes of the child she saw the men who'd held her captive kill. The girl had been one of the town kids who Chloe had taken pity on and asked to guide her through the market place. She'd been useless to the kidnappers, not the American journalist who's company could pay top dollar for her release. She'd just been a little girl, deemed 'unclean' because she'd been holding Chloe's hand.
Who else is going to remember her?
Four hours, one stolen laptop, and lots of cursing later, Chloe's editor had his story.
On Chloe's fourth day of quiet contemplation, misery, and self-doubt, Martha Kent blows into her room looking travel-weary and terrified. The older woman slams through the door, takes one look at her and starts to cry. Big, heaving sobs of air, and before Chloe can say a damn thing, she's being hugged.
"Thank god," Martha whispers into her shoulder, smelling of dust and sun and home. "Thank God."
Chloe wants to cry. Wants to curl up inside this woman and sob everything out. Martha Kent has been one of the only rocks in her life, even when Chloe is avoiding her, and it takes everything Chloe has not to cling back and beg to go home with this woman and never be in danger again.
It's not realistic.
Instead, she lets the other woman hug her until she stops crying before saying 'ow'.
"Oh, Chloe! I'm so sorry! Your poor ribs, your father told me before I left!"
It would take a stronger woman than Chloe is to not melt under the quick, light, motherly touches that Martha skims along her hair and face. It's a bitter lining to this world, Chloe has always thought, that Martha Kent, a woman so good with and for children, doesn't have tons of children. No, she only had one son, and he is gone now.
It isn't fair or right, but then again, very little in Chloe's life has ever been fair or right. Not unless she's made it that way herself.
"I'm okay," she hears herself say, broken and bruised body protesting otherwise.
"No, you're not." Martha says, face set. "But you will be."
And she says it with such certainty and determination that Chloe knows, way down deep in that little bit of her soul that's been screaming since she watched that little girl die, she's right.
They talk about inconsequential things for the rest of Chloe's stay in the hospital. Touching on nothing and everything. Martha manages to get Chloe crocheting after only five or six failed attempts.
Chloe doesn't point out that she's living in a desert and kind of doesn't need to know how to crochet a scarf. It's something to do with her hands that doesn't strain her busted arm and there's a level of accomplishment in finishing a row that is disproportionate to the effort put in.
They don't talk about a lot of things. Clark is barely mentioned, although he is the giant meteor rock sitting in the room. He's the reason Martha is here, Chloe knows. Because Clark would want his mother to look out for her, even with the way everything is left. Then again, she has no idea what Clark is thinking about her when he left.
She does ask though, why Martha came and her father didn't.
"Would you believe he lost his passport?" Martha is smiling quietly in the dim light from the room's only window. She's propped it open and sitting under it, working her own plastic knitting needles like there's no tomorrow. Chloe's fairly certain that the tiny green booties slowly taking shape in her capable hands will be in Chloe's next care package back to Lois.
Strangely, that hurts more than the slowly healing bruises on her face.
"No," she whispers, suddenly angry and wanting nothing more than to have Martha Kent and the mountain of obligations and fear and reality that she can't help but represent out of her room and out of her life. "It shouldn't matter. If your child is hurt, you should be there."
Martha turns then. She is backlit for a moment, the dying sun catching the last highlights of red in her graying hair. Chloe can't quite make out her face, but knows the set of her shoulders as one of grief. She blinks at the sadness of that picture. Bites her lip and looks away because seeing Martha Kent like that hurts more than believing Martha's just here because she thinks it's the right thing to do.
"No," the older woman says, face still turned away. "There are some times when you can't be there. Because your child has pushed for so long and so hard that you don't know how to be there. When those times happen, you just hope that there's someone there who can be what they need."
Martha turned then. Her cheeks are wet. "I came because I know how."
Martha takes Chloe back to her apartment the next day and they don't talk about it again.
Chloe kind of loves her apartment. It's not anything she ever imagined for herself, not ever. Then again, even five years ago, if anyone had asked, she would have detailed the stylish Metropolis apartment with all the bells and whistles and character that was her dream, her goal.
Things change. Everything changed.
And now, when she talks about 'home', it means this tiny little walk-up apartment that costs more than she's ever paid for anything. It's in a small, old building five minutes walk from the nearest main street with plumbing so old it clanks and even older rugs. It's cool in the day time and warm at night and really, that's everything she needs.
Martha smiles at it when she finally manages to wrestle Chloe up the last few stairs and through the front door. The older wan runs a hand over the thick stone walls and the colorful tapestries Chloe found in an outdoor market weeks ago.
"I like it," she finally says after settling Chloe down into her futon and starting work on scrubbing down the kitchenette and throwing out the spoiled food. It's something so entirely Martha Kent, Chloe has a hard time not laughing. "It's colorful and bright. It reminds me of you."
She doesn't know why, but something in her settles at those words. Eases. It's a validation that she had no idea she needed. She's moving on, if just in fits and starts.
Chloe falls asleep to the sounds of Martha scrubbing a dish and humming a Johnny Cash song. It's an odd juxtaposition, but a good one.
Chloe wakes to Martha talking on the phone and has to take several deep, long breathes before the panic settles out. Blood and fear and anger, mostly at herself, swirl around her, and when it finally subsides, she lets herself stare at the ceiling.
She doesn't know if she can do this. But that doesn't matter right now.
"Chloe?" Martha is fresh and pretty in a light colored dress. She looks like she belongs in this room, in this place in ways that Chloe hasn't been able to figure out in almost nine months of everyday living. "Are you up? I need you to come with me to the market. There's nothing in here worth eating, and you need something filling."
And like that, it doesn't matter. Because it's Martha.
"Yeah," Chloe coughs a bit on the out-breath. "Let me find something to wear and some shoes."
And so they begin their gentle and somewhat unreal exploration of Jerusalem. Chloe's seen most of it. She'd had to. Being a reporter here had been a crash course in the importance of culture, warfare, and reality. This isn't Kansas, even the big sprawling jewel of Metropolis. This place is history and past and anger and thousands of years of blood.
But Chloe had always been good at learning and even better at finding the story. In the process, the winding streets of Jerusalem had opened for her. Now, she shows them to Martha.
It starts small, with trips to the local outdoor markets for food. They are limited by the fact that Chloe tires easily, especially in the mid-day heat, but she gets better, slowly. By the fifth day, Chloe is awake early and waiting for Martha.
"We should see Gethsemane," she says, shaded in golden morning light, her bruises fading and already covered with makeup. "We should go."
Martha nods and holds out her hand. Chloe takes it.
They talk about Clark for the first time at a small café in the distant shadow of the wailing wall. Later, Chloe will find that fitting. At the time, it just feels inevitable.
"Do you know..." Chloe paused, shifted and gripped her tea more comfortably in her unbroken hand. "Do you know where he is? At all?"
She didn't need to clarify. Martha shook her head and took a bite of a fresh fig. "No. Not at all."
Her voice didn't shake.
"Are you scared?" Chloe bit her lip and looked away, shamed by her need to know. That she'd even asked the question.
"Yes." That time, it did shake.
Chloe nodded and watched a mother and daughter move down the narrow street outside. The mother was laughing at something the girl was saying, and their hands were locked and swinging. Chloe remembered doing something like that with her mother once. Before everything ended.
"Me too." She hadn't meant to say that. Not out loud.
Martha's hand is suddenly warm around her own. The fingers strong from years of farm work and when Chloe looks back, the other woman's eyes are bleak and devastated.
Everything she ever wanted, everything Martha Kent had ever had was gone. Nothing was left. Chloe knew how she felt.
"I wish Jason had been yours," Martha says.
Chloe shakes her head, biting down hard on the tears. She's tired of crying. For Clark, for Lois, for Martha. For herself.
But she's nothing if not honest, and in the heat of Jerusalem, a few miles from where Jesus Christ had been crucified, died, and buried, all to save the world, Chloe gives Martha a truth.
"Me too." She whispers this, and then sips her tea.
They take a transport to the Dead Sea and float side by side in the salt water, staring up into the bright blue skies.
The salt burns Chloe's mostly healed cuts, but she shrugs it off. Life is nothing without a little bit of pain. It reminds her that she's here, that she's alive and in this sacred place. Well, that and having to stick her arm straight up as to not screw up the cast.
She'd never dreamed of coming here. Not ever. It hadn't meant anything to her, not really.
Martha floats away from her, whistling. "This is so amazing."
"Me and my gimpy arm are having fun."
And then they're both laughing and bobbing and just being.
"Are you staying," Martha asks later after they've toweled off and washed the worst of the stickiness off with bottles of drinking water. "Here?"
It's the first time she's even alluded to the attack since the early minutes in the hospital.
Chloe pauses. Looks out over the bleak landscape with rocks and salt stains, and up at the blue, blue sky.
"I have to," she says. "I ran away and I found where I need to be."
"Okay, then." Martha throws an arm around her shoulder and hugs her close. She smells of salt and home.
The last time they talk about Clark is three days before Martha is to leave and go back to the States for an important vote.
Chloe is laughing with Martha at the sink, doing her best to manage a dishtowel with her injured arm. The supper dishes clank in the tiny sink, and they're giggling over the elderly man who'd been singing about their beauty all week. Warbling his appreciation in Yiddish, then Armenian, until today.
Today, he'd managed to toss out a pitch-perfect Frank Sinatra impression that had earned him kisses from both women.
"You know, Clark went through a Sinatra period," Martha grinned and handed Chloe another spoon. "It was terrible. He walked around for a week with his father's best tie and Hiram's old fedora. I finally had to wrestle it away from him with the threat that he would get no pie until I washed it."
"Oh, God, I remember the pictures!" Snickering, Chloe dropped now-dry utensil in a drawer. "I think the one with him singing into the hairbrush with the highball glass was the best."
Martha stops then, face still light, and shakes her head. "I forget how much you know, Chloe. How much you were there for."
Oddly, that freezes Chloe. All joy and amusement drain from her like someone pulled the tub plug.
"Yeah," she says. Putting the cup she'd just been handed down into the drainer and turning away. "I guess I was."
"What's wrong, Chloe?"
What's wrong. God, what isn't wrong. What is she even doing here? Because the last few days, while peaceful and amazing and something so much more than she ever thought she needed are ending. And everything is still about Clark. Even this. Especially this.
It always has been.
It always will be.
"Nothing, Martha. Nothing."
"You're lying. Chloe stop. Turn. Tell."
And because it's a mother's voice, a worried mother's voice, Chloe does. Looks up and has to clench her hands from yelling everything out. Putting it all out there.
She never thought she'd be the person to blame Clark for the wreckage that is her life.
"He left. Or died. He left."
Martha just stands there, waiting. "He did."
"And we're still waiting. Why are we still waiting?" It's a valid question. One that's been ripping hunks out of what's left of Chloe's soul since she learned that Clark was alien from another planet. Probably before, if she thought about it. "Why can't we move on?"
"I don't know." The weight of that answer stops Chloe cold.
"I hate your son." Chloe whispers this last secret into the dark of the room. It's the first time she's said it out loud and the sudden release of pressure is so great she almost gasps. "I hate him for everything he's left behind. All the messes. And because he never loved me back the way I wanted him to. And because I still love him so much that I'm cleaning them up."
She sobs then. So deeply her ribs sting, and it's like a dam bursting. Tears and snot and all of the fear and terror she's kept bottled up are suddenly out in the open, and when Martha's arms open for her, it's all she can do not to fling herself across the room.
"It's okay, baby." Martha whispers this into her hair. This and other nonsensical things that mothers tell their children when their worlds are just so violently askew that only a hug can calm them down. Chloe sobs and rails and lets everything go. Drops her burdens into Martha Kent's capable hands, and then slowly takes them back.
By the time everything stops, Chloe is hollow and half-asleep in the older woman's arms. Too tired do keep her eyes open.
Later, she's never sure if what she heard Martha say is just a dream. She never, ever asks.
"I hate him too, sometimes. Especially for this."
Chloe takes Martha to the airport on her last day in Israel. They're both quiet on the transport to Ben Gurion. It's a long trip, and staring out at the hills and horizon, Chloe wonders what Martha was thinking when she made this trip earlier in the month. Absently, she squeezes the other woman's hand and gives her a smile she means.
She is going to miss this woman. Badly.
"Thank you." She whispers it to the window and the horizon, not intending for Martha to hear. She changers her mind though, turning in her seat. "Thank you."
Martha just smiles and squeezes her hand back. "Thank you, Chloe. Not for Clark. For me."
Chloe shakes her head. "You don't need to thank me. I didn't do anything. You're the one that flew halfway around the world for one of your son's former friends."
"Oh, honey. You're so much more than that." The hug, while not entirely unexpected, is tight and long. Martha's mouth is next to her ear, and the next words are so soft, Chloe barely picks them out. But she does, and the tears come again. God she's been such a girl lately.
They let go and let the time pass.
The bus pulls in to the dusty receiving area and passengers all rush off, minds already at their destinations, even if their glances at each other are a bit wary. Such is life.
Martha and Chloe exit almost last, hands clutched. They wait for the luggage to be unloaded by the calm-eyed bus driver, letting the mid-morning sun beat down on them. It won't get psychotically hot for another couple of hours.
They hug goodbye. Knowing that Martha will soon be a world away hurts more than she wants to admit, but Chloe knows this is the right choice. It's the only choice.
"Tell my dad I'm okay."
Martha nods and smiles. "I will. Call me Chloe. Call me and write me. Let me know you're alive."
"I will," Chloe says. Meaning it. Believing for the first time that one day, she will go back to Kansas. For good. If just for this woman.
"Come home if you ever need to. I'll be there." And with a flash of white and red, Martha waves and goes into the terminal.
It's an inadequate goodbye, but they always are.
Chloe smiles most of the trip back. Because she knows Martha didn't mean Metropolis.
God that, felt good.
When she gets home, there's a small envelope on her kitchen table that hadn't been there that morning. The writing is in Martha's neat loopy cursive, and when she opens it she finds a single sheet of paper with a single line.
A single life can change the world.
Five months after Martha leaves Israel Chloe is nominated for her first Pulitzer. She celebrates with surveillance of one of the local weapons runners over a sweet bun at a distant bakery. It tastes nothing like Martha's pie, but it has an apple glaze, and Chloe thinks Martha would appreciate the effort.
The sun is hot on her face and she has a world to save. Well, part of it anyway.