and god knows you can't take tea alone
Who is the most gullible person I know
She watches Lois push her way through the press, her face stoic but pale. And that little boy, wrapped in her shaking arms. How does he look, Ms. Lane? Do you think he'll make it, Ms. Lane? What happened, Ms. Lane?
Martha shakes her head. They are asking all of the wrong questions. Do you still love him, Ms. Lane? Don't you know that he would never desert you, Ms. Lane? How could you ever doubt him, Ms. Lane? She wants to barrel through; to break into the hospital and sprint down to his room -- she wants to see him, just once, her little boy. Martha can remember him -- so young, so small, no sign that one day he would -- one day her son would --
But he is so determined in his secret; Martha will not fail him now. She longs to run to him, to spread her arms across his chest and cry, "I am his mother, I am his only family now -- "
But she won't. Instead she clasps her hands; instead she prays fiercely that God will save him; that God will save her son.
Ben calls twice; she ignores him once. Martha can't think of him now, surrounded by all of Clark's things -- new shirts he may never have to wear; dirty glasses that may never again hide his beautiful eyes; a soft bed that hurts her to sleep in. There are messages on his telephone: one from Lana Lang (Martha hadn't known that they'd kept in touch; what a sweet girl) and one from a young man named Jimmy.
Clark ... where are you, man? I haven't seen you at the office in days ... Perry's going to notice soon -- with Superman incapacitated, he needs his best reporters to keep things going ... and Lois ... well, we need you, buddy. Call me.
For days she does nothing, just sits in one of his big flannel shirts and watches the television; every minute that she is not beside him is a minute wasted, a minute of her life that she has allowed Superman to claim.
On the fifth day, a soft knock interrupts her dinner. She almost doesn't answer; for the first time, Martha is afraid of who might be on the other side of the wood. She is afraid to find a girlfriend that Clark was too shy to mention, or a best friend that knows all of his secrets (all but one and it may kill him).
She is a small slip of a girl, her heels too high and eyes too red. For a moment, Martha doesn't say anything -- then she wordlessly steps aside. "Would you like some tea, dear?"
Lois Lane blinks behind her sunglasses. "Uhm -- Mrs. Kent?" She asks, puzzlement erasing the sorrow on her features (but only for just one moment). Martha nods, ushering her to a barstool. "What a -- uhm -- what a surprise. Where's Clark?" Her eyes drip water onto the stove and an angry hiss betrays her. "Mrs. Kent?"
A new worry laces Ms. Lane's voice, and Martha clutches at the nearest surface to keep afloat. "He is still running errands," she tries to lie, but Martha has never lied well and can only manage, "He is still."
Ms. Lane reaches across the counter, placing her hand over Martha's. "What's the matter, Mrs. Kent?"
But she will not betray him; not now; not after everything. Martha shakes her head. "You have seen Superman, Ms. Lane? Terrible, what happened to him. Simply ... terrible." No breath remains in her lungs; she chokes over the clunky words as they struggle to pass her lips.
"Yes," Ms. Lane (Lois) whispers. "He is still -- " She closes her mouth tightly, slamming her eyelids closed to block an onslaught of tears. Before Martha can think to do so, her legs round the counter and she takes the young woman into her arms; both of them finally surrender to emotion. He loves you still, Ms. Lane, Martha wants to say. Oh, how he loves you.
Lois sleeps on the couch. Martha grips the covers until her fingers are white; she can imagine him here, eyes wide and chest heaving as he tries to control his excitement. He might call her and whisper, She's here, Mom, she's in my apartment on my couch ... how do you make a turkey melt?!
"I'll be home first thing tomorrow, Richard." The voice is muffled but Martha has always had excellent hearing. "I'm sorry that I scared you. I'm ... I'm at Clark's. What? No, not with him. I'm with ... I'm with his mother, Richard. I don't know why she's here but Clark -- well, isn't. I don't know where he's gone, and she doesn't seem to want to tell me. Do you know anything?"
Always the reporter. Clark had been so proud of his Lois, of her strength and her determination and her poise. If he could see her now, Martha thinks, but knows that he would love her tears and her weakness just as much. That's how love works; that's how Clark works. She has always been thankful for his gift of a limitless capacity to love – a gift that will be the end of him.
"Mrs. Kent ... I'm sorry to pry, but ... where is Clark?"
Martha sighs. Pours a glass of tea. Looks out of the window and prays to see the telltale red-and-blue spandex costume. She idly cleans his glasses on her shirt (you never know when he may need them and a mother must always be prepared). "He's gone home," she says, finally able to lie. Martha has never been more grateful for such a sin. "To visit Lana."
She does not know why she wants to hurt Lois; to hurt this beautiful, desperately breaking young woman that holds her son's heart. Except that perhaps she is jealous; perhaps she wants to be as free to love him; she wants to take her little boy into her arms and let the world see how proud she truly is, how proud she has always been.
Lois frowns. "Lana?" She asks. "Is that ... his girlfriend?!"
Martha smiles, shaking her head as she pushes the mug of tea towards Lois' waiting hand. "Heavens, I hope not! That girl was nothing but trouble for Clark. And I should hope a bride-to-be wouldn't be so wanton with her affections."
The reporter arches an eyebrow. "He's gone to a wedding?" She asks, incredulous. "How can he -- how can he go to a wedding when Superman is -- when the whole world is -- ?"
"Is Superman the world?" Martha asks mildly, tasting her drink and finding it too hot. (As usual.) Lois blushes, and she does not answer. "You know, Lois, he -- he is a man, beneath the blue and red fabric. He has a family somewhere, perhaps, who desperately want to hold him and tell him -- if only one last time -- how much that he is loved."
Lois looks away. Perhaps, Martha reflects, she thought herself his only family. And for that reason, she leans forward and asks -- begs -- pleads -- "Lois ... can I see him? I know you usually take your son when you visit but I -- I want to be there for him if his family -- if they can't."
She wakes to the sound of water running. Martha frowns; who would break into an apartment in order to shower? She tip-toes to the bathroom, cracking open the door as she clutches a fire-poker between her hands. "Wh-who's there?" She calls out.
The man in the shower freezes, and when he speaks Martha can do nothing but sink to her knees. "Mom? Is that you?"
In an instant he is at her side, hidden behind a large towel. She lets him hold her, lets him comfort her, let the smell and feel of him fill her up and soothe her sorrow. "Clark," she wails, "Oh my son, my son -- "
He shushes her, quietly rocking her back and forth until Martha has calmed. "Mom ... how long have you been here?"
"Only a couple of days," she murmurs, wiping at her face. "I couldn't stay away, Clark -- I tried to but I just couldn't, not when -- " she shudders. "I didn't tell your secret, son, even thought I wanted to -- so badly."
He smiles at her, pressing a light kiss to her forehead. "I love you, Mom," he promises. "I'm all right now."
"Mrs. Kent? This is Lois Lane."
Martha blinks down at her phone, startled. "Lois! Hello, dear. How are you?"
"I'm fine, Mrs. Kent. Superman is up and running again -- much to our relief. I'm sorry that you never got to visit him while he was in the hospital." She hesitates. "I told him what you said, though -- about his family. I think he liked it."
"Listen, I got your number from Clark. I just wanted ... I wanted to thank you, for being so kind when I showed up at Clark's apartment unannounced. Your son is a wonderful friend and I thought -- I thought for whatever reason that maybe he could ... help me."
Martha smiles. "I think there is only one person that can help you, Lois," she says gently.
"I know." Her voice is small, defeated. "But I'm -- I'm scared, Mrs. Kent. I can't ... I can't lose him. Not again." Her voice breaks and Martha's fingers tighten on the large receiver in her hand.
"If you don't tell him soon, Lois, then you will have already lost him."
There is a long silence. "My fiancee ... " she whispers. So scared. So sad. So sad. "He won't -- he won't understand ... how can I expect him to?"
"Your son needs his father, Lois," Martha chides gently, and ignores Lois' gasp. She looks out of her window; she looks across the lawn and the cornfields behind and the mountains behind. She can see him, her son, jumping two and fro, thrilled at his power and unconcerned about the consequences. She'd tried to be there for him, as he grew, as he began to understand -- but now she was simply his mother, tucked away safely in Smallville, to be brought out on special and dire occasions.
She would not go out like this.
Martha sucks in her breath. "A grandmother always knows, Lois," she whispers, and then hangs up the phone. Damnit all, Clark. Don't you know that she (I) will always love you?
He sleeps in his own room, to comfort her and prove that he is still alive. She watches him sleep for a few moments, his face calm and loose and relaxed.
He is still.