by Sarah T.
The screen door banged, and Martha started up from the living room couch, clutching her knitting in both hands. Slowly, she bit her lip and made herself sit back down without looking into the next room. It was a discipline she'd forced herself to learn this summer, and she needed it again. She could do it.
She'd left the kitchen door open, even though it was letting in the cold gusts of a November evening, swirling about her ankles above the hardwood floor. She wanted Clark to know they weren't angry at him for the choice he'd made, even if it had ended so terribly. Jonathan had gone out looking for him after they'd heard the news, but Martha knew now that they would never be able to find Clark against his will. She looked at the clock--11:13 pm, a full seven minutes since she'd last checked--and lowered her eyes to the stitches. They were so smooth and even, linked together in their neat rows and columns. She'd knitted a lot over the summer: a whole basketful of homespun lies.
The door banged again, but this time she didn't even move. A minute later, though, Clark came into the living room. She kept herself from jumping up and running to him. There couldn't be any pressure. "Clark, are you all right?" she asked, wincing to hear the shake and jump in her voice.
"Yes," he said flatly. "I'm fine."
"Lana's doing much better."
"I know. I saw her in the hospital."
"Clark." She didn't want to press, but she couldn't bear to see him so blank. "I'm so sorry about Lex."
"He knows, Mom." He looked away, and the shadows made his face fierce and remote. "He saw me."
"He was going to be hit by a car. I saved him. He figured out that I'm an alien."
"Oh, my God." Her mind raced. "But...he...he's in the hospital now. They know he's seeing things. They probably don't believe a word he says."
"Especially after he goes on about seeing his best friend the alien throw a car fifty feet. That would pretty much make up everyone's minds that he's crazy." He stopped and swallowed painfully. "Except he's not."
"Oh, Clark." She laid her knitting down, but, seeing the muscles struggle in his throat, she knew it was still too early to go to him. "I know how much you want to believe in him, but he didn't just hurt Lana, he shot a man. It wasn't his fault, but he really is sick."
"That man was Morgan Edge, Mom. He and Lionel were conspiring to drug Lex and make him crazy. I got Darius the security guard to confess. They put the drugs in the Scotch. When I went to confront the guy who paid him off, it was Morgan. He'd had plastic surgery done, but it was him. He knew me. He had kryptonite." His fingers clenched and unclenched. "Lex saved me. That's why he shot Edge."
"But then--why...?" One of the curtains fluttered in a breeze from the door, a sudden uneven billow like an intruder. She couldn't breathe.
"Because I couldn't let them think he wasn't crazy. Because I have to protect my secret. Because if Lionel Luthor knew, he would do something a lot worse to me than just drug me." He finally looked at her again, and his face was still as the statue of Justice at the Metropolis federal courthouse, even though his voice was full of tiny slivers of pain. "Right, Mom?"
She could only stare at him and think of dusky green-lit mental wards, ruthlessly bright lab rooms. Hunched bodies and torn ones. The hospital wards after the meteor shower. A tiny grave marker beside Jonathan's parents'.
All for her wish come true.
"Right." He turned away. "I'm going upstairs. I've got to talk to Chloe." His voice broke, but he clamped his mouth into a straight line and then went on. "I don't know what I'm going to tell her."
As he went up the stairs, Martha reached for her knitting, but her hands were shaking so badly that she fumbled it to the floor. She didn't move to pick it up. She wanted to say that this wasn't they had taught Clark, that they had never meant anything like this, but too many examples crowded behind her eyelids. Even if it had been only the weakness of the moment, the panicked decision of a good young man who it didn't take much to see had been terrified of a lot more than exposure, he had acted on what they had taught him since he was a toddler. Never tell. Never let them see.
No matter what.
She sat still for what seemed like hours as the fire slowly died away. Shadows and moonlight curled around the old familiar handmade furniture until it was totally unrecognizable, just vague figures looming in the darkness. The chill settled into the house as if it would always be there.
The kitchen door closed. "Martha?"
She looked up from her trance. She could feel the stiffness of drying tears on her cheeks. "Jonathan."
"Yes. He--he's upstairs. I hope he's asleep. He was pretty upset."
Jonathan nodded, his face softening the way it did sometimes, usually when there was no one to see but her. There was so much kindness in him, she thought, so much good. "Of course. He knows we're not angry at him?"
"Yes. Yes, he does."
"Do you think I should go talk to him?"
She bit her lip. She couldn't tell him. Not tonight. She couldn't bear to see the eyes harden again, to hear him say--"No, I think you should let him rest. He's had an awful day."
"All right. Coming to bed?"
"In...in a minute."
But she didn't move. She wasn't sure she would ever sleep again, and she didn't want to be comforted.
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