Rating: PG
Spoilers: Let's say through all aired episodes, to be safe.
Summary: Clark and Lois, finding their way.


There is something of cinnamon in Martha's apartment: it is not the Kent Farm — there are no dough and jam-stained cookbooks out on the counter — but there is something diffuse and sunlit about the place; something of fresh coffee and shrewd business sense, and half-finished copies of Orlando on the bedside table.

I wonder what Martha thinks about now that she has flown the nest she built; the wife and mother cast aside, the cosmopolitan of her youth reborn in her stead. To lose Jonathan, to become a Senator: was that a Pyrrhic victory? No doubt she took that old copy of Huckleberry Finn and put it out next to her own book, and thumbed through it time to time, held the pages to her nose and breathed them in. No doubt she wouldn't sleep without knowing where it was.

"Clark's sorry he couldn't come," I say. "He's on assignment."

I am sitting at the kitchen table, my hands laid flat against the cool surface. Martha sets a cup of coffee down in front of me, and then sits with her own at the other corner. She regards me with a half smile.

"Don't worry about Clark. He comes up here more often than you think."

I press my eyelids together. This is the first time I have come to visit Martha in three years. I can see Clark seated across from me, making my excuses to her: Lois is in Kabul; Lois is in Geneva; Lois is in London. Even now I came trailing politicians; not because Martha bade me, and I regret that, I regret the indifferent, unforgiving truth of the sentiment.

It is not that I don't love her. There is a kinship between Martha and myself, an understanding. She unmakes me in the space before her soft, astute, finely-lashed eyes: she knows me; she becomes me. I love her for that, and fear her; I make her my mother, and I distance her from me.

Her hand is on my shoulder. "It's good to see you, Lois."

- - -

There is a photograph of me I have never seen before on the mantle amid the pictures of Jonathan and Clark. I am working alone at my desk in the night; my eyes are turned down, my mouth seems sad. In looking at it, I feel an echo of what I know I felt when it was taken. I feel alone.

"Clark gave that one to me," Martha says, seeing me linger over it. "Jimmy took it."

My fingers tremble a little. I wonder why Jimmy would give Clark a picture of me.

- - -

"You know that I asked Clark to send copies of the Daily Planet since I moved up here."

I am half-dreaming, my head resting on her shoulder; Martha is stroking her long fingers through my hair, pulling it back behind my ears. I have a vague recollection of my own mother doing the same when she was still alive, and the vaguer sense that I am perhaps too old for a little girl's comfort.

"You two have been printing a lot of stories together lately," she says very softly.

"You know Clark;" I say, with only half of my heart, "someone has to hold his hand."

"I think you underestimate him," she says.

No; but that's not what she means. What she means is that my understanding of Clark is incomplete.

"I think he underestimates me."

- - -

I have always had nightmares. There is one about bloodied fingers trying to close wounds hewn in stone. There is one where every ashen body at the morgue is someone I know and love.

I had that one while sleeping at night at the Daily Planet. I opened my eyes when it was over, and sat there, muscles stiff, in my chair, feeling that I would throw up. It was nights like that, when Clark was out alone trailing a story, that my thoughts turned to the macabre, to darkened corpses and boney fingers.

When did I become the concerned wife? When did it start to matter where Clark was, alone, in the middle of the night, when Clark was probably out interviewing paramedics for some story which would prove too mundane to print?

It was at that point that he entered, and I caught a glimpse of him from across the room before he realised I was there. He was carrying within him some idea about himself — some low-shouldered, deep-socketed lie about the nature of his being — and I felt my fingers ache to brush the hair back from his eyes, to touch his lips and reassure him that I understood him.

Then he had looked up at me, his eyes burning black like he would never forgive himself, and what could I do?

It wasn't my choice to love Clark.

He swept into my heart with the autumn wind, eddying the brown-red leaves and breaking the silvery cobwebs of my heart; he was unexpected, bringing with him cool sunlight and then stinging rain, and not seeing anything in himself to love but gently asking it nonetheless — so I love him, for his big rain-filled eyes and kite-flying hands; because he asked it; because I couldn't refuse.

- - -

"Before you go," Martha puts my shoulder bag down by the rest of my luggage. "I have something for you, Lois."

I deflect: "Mrs Kent, seriously — you shouldn't have."

She smiles back at me, "Oh, I didn't. Here:" and she picks up a small box from the counter and opens it, drawing out an old silver locket on a chain. It is inlaid with pearl, like an iridescent oval moon, but otherwise plain.

"This has been in my family for a few years;" she says, "it's not worth anything, but you know that Jonathan and I never had any daughters, so I would like you to have it, Lois."

I look at the locket: it is worn, and loved, and I think that at one point Martha carried the essence of her being around in it. I love it because it is hers, but I do not need that much space to carry myself in.

"I — thanks, Mrs Kent, but isn't there someone else you could save this for? —"

I am careful about the next sentence, but I know that Martha, who loves and knows me, who unravels me in her eyes, understands that I think of it as Lana's already. "I just — Clark's going to settle down eventually, you know."

Martha just smiles, in that wistful Martha way, and tucks a strand of hair behind my ear. "I would have loved to have had a daughter like you, Lois." And how could I refuse her then? Her without a daughter; me without a mother: I took the locket. Lana had so many other things I love; she could spare me this one.

"Howcome you and Mr Kent never adopted any more children?" I ask, turning the locket over in my hand, and Martha seems to think on the answer.

"Well," she says carefully, "we thought about it. But Clark was quite a difficult child to raise in a lot of ways."

I raise an eyebrow, "Clark difficult? But he's so ... strait-laced."

"Oh, I don't mean that he was misbehaved," she laughs. "But Clark was an unusual child. Jonathan and I just thought that — well, that it would be better not to unsettle him."

They had sat together in the kitchen, then, Martha and her little boy — she thinking about daughters and loving Clark too much to foist them on him. Maybe she brushed his hair out of his eyes in the same way she had done mine, and out of that small gesture all that was soft and gentle about him blossomed; and in kissing his forehead, she planted a seed from which the flower of his sensitivity later grew.

"I did sometimes wonder, though," she said, with a sense of regret. "I think Clark would have liked some brothers and sisters. In fact," she smiled again at me here, "I think Clark was a little jealous of you."

"Because of Lucy?" The idea is incomprehensible to me.

"Because of Lucy," she repeats, "and because of Chloe. But he would never admit to jealousy."

No; I suppose he wouldn't. But the idea is strange to me, that Clark could have been filled with the same sense of longing for my siblings as I had for his parents. And Chloe — well, I have been jealous of him because of her, but I suppose it is a different thing to have someone's undivided attention as an adult and their kinship as a child.

- - -

"It won't be so long before my next visit," I say, as she kisses my cheek goodbye.

We both know that the fullness of time will make those words a lie.