The phone was ringing. Martha stared at it for a heartbeat, almost as if she couldn't believe what her senses were telling her, before making a mad dash for the receiver.
Silence awaited her. It spoke volumes in a voice only a mother could hear. The faintest wisp of breath against the mouthpiece betrayed pain, heartache and longing.
"Clark," she whispered. "Come home."
There was a sharp click. Martha tightened her hand around the receiver as Jonathan came up behind her. His hand on her arm brought little comfort. She wished he wouldn't - couldn't tell him to stop. He wouldn't understand.
Jonathan came up behind her, as he often did. It brought her comfort. His warm bulk at her back made her feel protected, safe, and loved. When he wrapped his arms around her and rested his cheek against her head, she knew nothing bad could ever happen to her. He was her knight in shining armor. She loved him with all her heart.
At the time she'd met him, all the men she'd ever dated before had been sanctioned by her father. They were slick-suited corporate types - young legal professionals mostly - who reeked of expensive cologne and were anxious to get through their schooling, pass the bar, and do nothing but work and hob-nob with the rich and famous. If William Clark hadn't raised a head-strong daughter, she might have ended up a trophy wife, pampered and coddled and required only to host her husband's parties and bear him an heir. He would have a pretty young lover. She would get drunk to ease the pain of rejection, and shop for new clothes to fill her walk-in closet.
Conversely she could have continued her own education, gone into the legal field herself, and opened her own firm. She'd marry another attorney, bear a single child late in life, and have said child raised by nannies and boarding schools.
Martha went to work for Lionel Luthor during the day and drove home with her hands shaking, thinking about how close she had been to becoming one of them. She'd visited her father once while with Lionel in Metropolis. Just walking through the doors of Gault, Parelli and Clark, LLP, had made her feel ill. William Clark Esquire had looked at her over the tops of his glasses, as he always done prior to dispensing some word of advice Martha didn't particularly want to hear.
"You should go back to school," he'd sniffed, shuffling through the files on his desk. "Personal assistant indeed."
She was forty-two years old. He made her feel like she was twelve. "It's part-time, Daddy, and pays well. I still have time to help Jonathan on the farm."
"And you know how I feel about that," William growled. He'd given her another look, then went back to his work. "Lionel is not the tyrant his press makes him out to be, nor is he stingy. If you won't accept my assistance with your tuition...."
"No, Daddy. I'm quite happy with the education I have."
"I run a business."
"You grow carrots, Martha, and your husband is up to his eyebrows in debt. Obviously there is a flaw in your economic strategy."
Martha had sighed. "I love him, Daddy. Jonathan and Clark are my life."
William snorted in response. "A fine life it is too. A good for nothing husband and a child that isn't even yours."
She'd left in tears. Forty-two years old, and he could still hurt her.
Jonathan soothed her hurts. He came up behind her, and touched her.
Somehow she was wise to the ruse. Perhaps it was due to of the colors around her. She knew she was in her own kitchen, which was always bathed in warm light, whether it was the bright sunny yellow of day, or the rich amber glow there after sunset. Now, however, everything was done in shades of midnight blue, violet and a deep, dark red reminiscent of old blood. The very hues were a warning. She dreamed and in her dreams the man behind her was not her husband.
Hands ran down her arms. They were warm and soft, not like Jonathan's, which were rough and often cold. These hands slid over her skin like silk, leaving a tingling sensation in their wake, and sending a shiver through her body. She was nude, and so was he. He was aroused, and so was she. The skin across her breasts tightened as his fingertips brushed across her nipples, bringing them painfully erect. Each additional touch inflamed her senses still further, and she squirmed in his arms.
But she wasn't, not here, not in this in between place of dreams and desires. She tilted her head back against his chest as he bent to kiss her neck, closing her eyes so she could concentrate only on feeling what he was making her feel. His hair tickled her bare shoulders. His lips and tongue played along the length of her neck to her ear, where he sucked as he continued to toy with her breasts. One hand remained there at her chest, but the other roamed across the landscape of her stomach, her hip, and down, down, down.
His voice was low, barely a whisper.
She obeyed, turning only to find him kneeling before her. He was not Jonathan, not with thick, dark waves of hair, and flawless skin that spoke of youth. She wanted to see his face, to confirm it was as beautiful as the body the shadows only hinted at, but she saw only that - shadows. Her eyes closed. She could feel him as he continued to touch her in ways only her husband touched her, and then, in ways Jonathan had never dared.
Fingers parted her folds. A tongue flickered.
All that mattered was that Jonathan was home safe. Martha hadn't gone into details about what had happened to her in the cellar. She had been unconscious when Clark found her. Whether it had been the tornado, or something else, neither of them knew, and Martha made sure there were no inquiries made. She was okay. Jonathan was safe. Clark was safe. Their family was together again and nothing else was important.
The truth? The ship had done something to her, she wasn't sure what. A wash of bright yellow light had surrounded her, tangling her in threads of brightness that seemed to pierce her body from all sides. The light was around her, and inside her, and it had hurt her somehow. She remembered only the light, the roaring wind of the tornado, and finally Clark's frantic cries as he shook her awake.
She had the first dream three days after Jonathan was found. It failed to faze her. She was no longer a young woman, but she was a woman. Martha Kent, homemaker, mother, wife, still had erotic dreams and she still made love to her husband on a regular basis. Not, she thought with some amusement, that Clark was keen on that idea. Teenagers were notoriously blind to their parents' sexuality, as if they themselves were found in a cabbage patch instead of conceived in a sweaty tangle of sheets.
Of course Clark was an exception. For all Martha knew he was conceived in a test tube. He was most certainly found in a cornfield, although there had been no cabbages in sight.
Martha and Jonathan had frequently discussed Clark's sexuality. He'd been a late bloomer in that regard. He'd developed the height of a teenager, but nothing else associated with puberty. He clattered around, big and lanky, with a beautiful soprano and the longest lashes Martha had ever seen on a boy. They'd worried. Was his gender even correct? He looked male. What if he started asking questions?
They worried, and fretted, until the summer of Clark's thirteenth year when his voice changed overnight. By fourteen he'd caught up and surpassed his peers. His body left no doubt that he was most definitely male. Neither he nor Martha mentioned the stained sheets, but she slept easier, and Jonathan almost gleefully scheduled a private conference regarding the birds and the bees.
That didn't make Clark any less disgusted if he caught them making out on the porch swing, nor ease his embarrassment when he blushingly admitted thoughts of sex were what first triggered his heat vision. Jonathan turned eight and giggled about it when Clark wasn't around. Martha didn't think the combination of Clark and sex was funny.
The ship had done something to her.
For weeks her dreams were all about his mouth and how it licked and sucked her slick, wet folds as if he were devouring some exotic fruit. His moans undercut her own, sending the vibrations up through her as if his voice were his cock. She came upon his tongue. Her fingers pulled at his hair as she arched her back against the strength of his hands locked around her hips. He held her, teased her, made her experience things she'd never experienced before.
Martha never saw his face. As he started to rise she would wake and lie there next to Jonathan trembling with the fleeting remnants of orgasm. Sometimes she'd cry, pressing her face into the pillow so she wouldn't wake him. Sometimes she would wake him and insist on sex, letting her husband's more familiar body drive away the feelings of wrongness.
Often Jonathan wouldn't oblige her, turning away, whining that he was tired, and Martha would feel a surge of irrational anger. Her fingers would tighten around the bedclothes as she fought the desire to scream at him. It was the ship. It had done something to her and she was afraid. Her fear grew as the dreams insinuated themselves into her waking hours and her senses became hyper-sensitive to all things male.
The musky scent of Jonathan's sweat as he came in from the field, Lionel's deep voice and the touch of his body next to hers as she guided him through his office, the surprisingly clear blue of Lex's eyes....all of it made her think of him. She longed for nightfall, when he would come to her again in her dreams and touch her where she needed to be touched. She seemed forever paused on the verge of orgasm, always thinking about sex, wanting desperately to touch herself and knowing she didn't dare.
Clark brushed by her in the kitchen one morning and she nearly dropped the plate she was holding. He steadied her, his large hands on her arms, his head ducking down so he could look into her face with a smile and a laugh. She thought it was going to kill her, his touch. Suddenly she became aware of Clark as man, not her child. This boy, this baby, whom she'd cuddled and rocked and raised to a teenager, was irrevocably changed into something else. His maleness overwhelmed her. Her hand was on his chest. Beneath his shirt she could feel how strong he was, how hard and hot and beautiful....
His lips caressed her flushed cheek. She thought of his lips and her nipples rose to tight little peaks against the cloth of her sweater. Clark's arm brushed against her chest as he turned, and her breath exploded from her mouth in a gasp.
She shook her head and hid her distress behind a yawn.
That night she was on her hands and knees. Her dream lover's cock was inside her, his hips thrusting steadily against her with bruising force, and she woke with her son's name on her lips.
His room was down the hall.
Martha's hand strayed between her legs.
Clark lounged against the kitchen sink clad in chocolate brown silk and black cashmere, indolently eating an apple as sloppily and loudly as he could. Martha didn't look at him. He'd told them he was leaving. She didn't want him to go and was afraid for him. He was her baby. She loved him. Another part of her needed him to leave.
They waited on Jonathan. Clark was going to tell him personally.
"To see the look on his face," he'd said.
Martha's mind was full of black leather and motorcycles, and the tight swell of Clark's thigh against the jeans he'd been wearing the day before. He'd come home smelling of cigarette smoke, stale beer, and sex. She hadn't slept that night, worried about him, and desperately afraid of what awaited her in her dreams. Now he stood next to her dressed in chocolate, his long legs clad in silk that clung in all the right places - groin, buttocks, slim, flexible hips - and he stared at her with a look that didn't belong on her son.
She cleared her throat.
"No," Martha said shakily. She automatically said, "Don't."
He reached out a hand and rubbed her arm affectionately, but with a rather dismissive air, as if she were not his mother. Technically, she wasn't. Sweat began beading up between her shoulder blades. Her mind pleaded for him to stop, to just go and leave her alone. Jonathan was late. He'd not be there for a while yet. There was time....
Her hands clenched into fists beneath the dishwater. Clark was agonizingly close to her, yet out of reach. She could smell him. Her body trembled. It would be nothing for her to reach out to him and pull him close, open her mouth to him, thrust her tongue between his teeth and ask him to fuck her. In the mood he was in, he might just do it.
Fuck me. Oh god....
"What's going on?" Jonathan demanded.
Martha let out her breath in relief. Clark and Jonathan fought. She followed them out into the driveway and watched Clark drive away in Lex's car.
By sunset Jonathan had retrieved him again. He was without the red meteor rock ring, and he hugged her as he came into the kitchen. Martha ran her hands over his chest, making a weak joke about the shirt and urging him to change. She nearly wept as she watched him take it off halfway up the stairs.
He gazed up at her from between her breasts, his lips flushed as bright and wet as the breast he'd been suckling. His tongue ran over her other nipple, a short rough stroke like that of a cat, or an alien. The thought made him laugh. He could hear her thoughts. It was how he knew what she wanted.
"I want you to look like someone else," she pleaded, digging her nails into the broad expanse of his back and leaving no mark.
He only smiled at her with Clark's mouth, and Clark's eyes, and Clark's long silky eyelashes that had no right belonging to a boy. Kneeling over her, he cupped her breasts in his hands as he kissed her with lips as sweet as honey and a tongue as thick and hard in her mouth as his cock was against her belly. Instinct drew her legs up around his thighs. Desire made her kiss him back and slip her hand between his legs to guide him into her.
Their bodies rose and fell together. The look on his face when he came burned itself into her memory: eyes closed, lips slack, hair clinging to a sweat-soaked forehead as he thrust deep one last time.
"Pancakes?" she asked at breakfast.
Her hands shook. Clark frowned up at her. Her mind replaced the look with another.
And she immediately dropped the spatula.
"It's really rude of him not to have called you, Mrs. Kent. You didn't know he had a doctor's appointment today?"
"No," Martha said weakly. She leafed through her planner. "It must have been a change I didn't know about."
Funny, she felt the need to justify why she, as Lionel's assistant, hadn't known about the doctor's appointment. Lex probably didn't give a rat's ass. Martha fumbled the planner, sending some loose paper fluttering to the floor, and cursed under her breath. Her hand touched Lex's as they both bent to pick up what she'd dropped. It made her gasp.
Instead of letting go, he held her hand tighter, and guided her to her feet.
"Are you feeling all right?"
She extricated her hand from his, and waved it a little in dismissal. "Oh, yes. Fine. I think I may have a cold coming on. I'm sorry to have bothered you. I'll...I'll...."
He steadied her again as she stumbled on the rug. Since the onset of the dreams she'd avoided his eyes. They caught hers now, and held them. She found herself drowning in a pool of liquid blue set upon a backdrop of pale, silken skin. Her eyes flickered down to his mouth, pursed like a parent about to scold, the faint scar on his upper lip standing out in stark relief; a dark red line against pale pink. He smelled faintly of leather and a slightly metallic scented cologne. Lex the robot. It made her smile. He smiled back.
And she was asking, "What's it like?" before she could stop herself.
A mother knows things instinctively, even when her child isn't of her blood. She'd promised herself she would never reveal Clark's secrets. This one Lex already knew.
"What is what like?" His smile faltered a little, the power of his eyes drawing back as he put up his defenses. The hold he'd had on her weakened and she could have broken away from him, changed the subject, and gone on her way, but she didn't.
"Making love to my son," she whispered. Her day planner fell from her hands onto a chair. "Do you dream about him when he's not here?"
"Mrs. Kent...." Lex backed up a step, hands rising in a semi-warding gesture. "You...."
"I envy you," she said. "You're allowed to see how beautiful he really is, touch him in a way I can't, hear him say words I'll never hear pass his lips." She smiled a little. "What do they taste like, those lips?"
It was not what he'd expected, and she had him, she could see it in his eyes. He stood poised between revulsion and a strange and wicked titillation. What was going through his mind, some perverse threesome? Martha knew men like Lex and Lionel Luthor. Her father had tried to marry her off to one just like them. She was glad to have escaped.
Sex was easily available to men like the Luthors. It could quickly grow boring, resulting in a wide variety of kinks a rich man's money could hide behind the locked doors of secret hideaways. Lex obviously liked to spice up his sex life with pretty boys, and, as it turned out, pretty boys' mothers.
He moved too fast, fucked her too hard. He left angry bruises borne of some deep buried psychological scars Martha might have actually cared about some other moment in time. Her mind was on his cock, and so was her body, as she shoved him onto his back and rode him instead. He'd made noises about a condom. She threw it out and he didn't protest, knowing she couldn't get pregnant, and was probably the safest fuck he'd ever had after her virginal son.
Martha didn't want to think about that, but she did. As he raised his hips beneath her, thrusting against her undulating hips, she thought of her dreams and she saw a vision of Lex writhing and moaning under someone else's body. In her mind's eye he lay helpless, spread open beneath Clark's powerful thrusts and crying out for more.
Harder, deeper, faster....
She threw back her head, letting her hair fall around her shoulders. His hands guided her, pushing her up and down upon his rigid cock. He bit his lip. His blue eyes grew distant and vague. She closed her eyes and felt his presence - saw his face, and felt his hands upon her body. The sweat-slicked leather sofa in Lex Luthor's office, the grunts he made as he sought his pleasure, all faded away. Her hands reached out to touch him where he lay framed against a background of stars.
And then reality came rushing back to her with the spasms rippling through her body, the heat rising into her face, and the long, low moan that issued from her throat.
Lex wrestled her down onto her back and finished it, thrusting frantically into her as if he were a young boy, new at the game, unable to control himself. When he came he bit her, hard enough to draw blood.
She slapped him for it.
Kisses soothed her hurts. Clark's mouth lingered upon her injured breast. His fingers stroked the insides of her arms where dark bruises stood out against her pale skin. Tears ran down her face.
"What have you done to me?"
A sunset rich, and red, spread out behind him across an alien landscape. His eyes held a field of stars, and comets arced from his fingertips.
"Made all your wishes come true," he replied softly, and touched her one last time. "Can't you feel it?"
Martha looked down, and placed her hand upon his. The life within her stirred. She looked up at him sharply.
"The coin with which I repay you. Your task is completed, and I will take what is mine."
He faded into the darkening skies. She heard only his voice.
"Kal-El, it will soon be time...."
Martha's dreams stopped abruptly. She was herself again.
Helen Bryce confirmed the pregnancy. A week later she confirmed the paternity - to a certain degree. Martha told her it was Lionel and Helen believed her.
A few weeks after that, Helen Bryce married Lex Luthor, and Clark sent everyone on a one way ticket to Hell.
Martha had always felt more of a kinship with Lana than Chloe, perhaps because Lana and Nell had been their neighbors for so many years. She was coming to see that she had made an error, and gradually realized that she much preferred the blonde girl's company. Lana was always tense. She made Martha nervous. Despite her outward demeanor, Chloe tended to be quieter, more thoughtful. It was as if she had a well of stillness somewhere at her core, an inner strength that reminded Martha of herself.
Lana brought flowers. Chloe brought candy, and her sadness seemed to be far more encompassing. There were secrets buried inside her. Martha could relate. She had a few of her own.
"I'm sorry," Chloe said. It wasn't just sympathy for Martha.
"What did you find?"
The girl had fumbled in her purse, and pulled out a card. On it was the logo from The Daily Planet with Chloe's name as "junior columnist" printed beneath it. Scrawled across the back was an address.
"Shouldn't we tell Mr. Kent?"
"No." Martha tucked the card into a pocket of her jeans. "Chloe, you can't tell anyone. Not yet."
The girl nodded. Her face had screwed up into an expression of fear, remorse, and profound silence. "He's not....himself."
"I know," Martha said, as she'd told Chloe. Clark wasn't himself. He was perhaps, who he'd meant to be.
She raised a hand, and knocked softly on the door. Beyond it she heard an irritated growl. Almost immediately the door opened with a jerk.
He looked like the man from her dreams. His long hair curled around his face, his eyes were bright and intense, full of subdued sensuality. The scent of cologne clung to him like fog upon an inlet sea. His clothes were all in the colors of her dreams; black and indigo blue. When he recognized her he smiled a slow and languid smile, as if he had her right where he wanted her. Had she been the woman she'd been a few months earlier, she would have gladly sacrificed her soul with her next breath, especially when his lips parted, and he licked his lips.
This is not my son.
"I want to talk to Clark."
A smirk began. She spoke again and he aborted it.
He paused, then stood aside, allowing her to enter the spacious apartment he'd acquired as his own. She didn't want to know how he afforded it. The door shut behind them. Martha refused to sit when he gestured to a chair, so he took it himself, lounging back in it with a cocky air. It made her want to hit him. Guilt made her tremble.
"So talk," he said.
"Take off the ring."
Martha turned to leave. She was at the door when she heard his gasp. Over her shoulder she could see him sit up, clutching at his chest. Instinctively she went back, crouching down to take him in her arms as any mother would, but he shoved her back. She fell to the floor as he staggered past her.
He clawed at his hand, gasping, and the faint reddish glow beneath his fingers faded as the ring he wore came loose in his hand. Martha slowly got to her feet as he turned away from her.
"It's not your fault," she whispered, pursuing him. She touched his back and he wrenched away from her with a sob.
"It is! If I hadn't been so selfish. If I'd obeyed my father in the first place...."
"He has no right to do what he's done," Martha hissed.
To either of us.
Clark shook his head, staggering back to the chair and burying his face in his hands. "You didn't see it. You didn't see the look on Dad's face...he hates me."
He couldn't escape her. She knelt before him, her hands on his arm. "No, Clark, no! It's not true. He loves you. He was just upset."
Hazel eyes turned bright with tears, and lashes damp, were revealed behind a trembling hand. "I cost him so much already, and then to take away his son, his real son...."
"Baby, it's not your fault...."
"Yes it is!! You could have been happy. The baby...."
"Wasn't his," Martha said fiercely. She dug her nails into his arm and shook him, pressing on beyond his initial shock to tell him a secret she'd once swore she'd keep until her dying day. It was a secret no longer a priority among all the others she now kept. "Listen to me, Clark. That day, long ago, at the fertility clinic. I lied. I told your father a lie. We couldn't have children because of him, not me."
She could feel his muscles tense beneath her hand, and saw his fist close tightly around the ring.
"But I told the truth about the ship. It drove me to do it. I had to...I think it was your father, Jor-El, inside my mind."
Clark's face shifted. A small moan issued from his throat. "What did you do?"
"Clark I swear, I wasn't thinking. I couldn't escape him. The dreams...." Martha saw his hand move - grabbed for it. "No! No!"
Her fingers clawed at his, desperately trying to prevent him from putting on the ring again, but he'd slipped it down over his finger, and he pushed it home with a flash of triumph in his expression. Seconds later he was standing, and so was she, his hands locked around her arms as he gave her a shake. The muscles in his jaws clenched tight. Martha had never been afraid of him before, but the look in his eyes and the tone of his voice were not anything close to human.
"What did you do?!?!?!"
"Lex," she gasped. "It was Lex."
Her words struck to the very heart of him. She saw the whole story pass across his face in a hodge-podge of emotions ranging from hurt, to grief, to the agony of loss and betrayal. A surge of hatred rose up in her. Lex had done this, made Clark love him this much.
His face twisted into an expression of sheer rage. His hands locked around her arms and he threw her, tossing her aside as if she were little more than a speck of lint upon his shirt. For a moment she knew the sensation of flying before falling took over. Her breath rushed from her lungs as she hit the side of the bed. She couldn't catch it again, couldn't scream when he lunged back toward her. Her body slumped to the floor, and curling around herself, she threw her arms over her head in an effort to protect herself from his fists.
He didn't hit her. His blows were verbal.
"Whore! You filthy, God-damn whore!"
Martha choked. She buried her face in her hands. "Clark...."
There was a rush of air. The door slammed, launching a painting from the wall to crash down to the floor with a bang like a gunshot.
The phone hadn't rung again. Martha had stopped the pendulum on the clock. She couldn't stand to hear it ticking away the time, not wanting to know how long she had already waited.
Silence and darkness fell around her like a blanket. It hadn't been long been long before she'd slumped sideways on the couch and let her weariness overcome her.
He came up behind her like Jonathan had always done. His hands caressed her as if she were his pet, and she remembered his more intimate touch. She found herself wanting it again. She turned in his arms and faced him, burying her face in his chest and pressing her body close to his. Her fingers plucked randomly at the dark robes he wore, and her own clothing. It was wrong. This was wrong.
Puzzled, she looked up at him. Blue eyes greeted her above a crooked smile. Rough hands tangled in her hair as he pushed it back from her face. He smelled of dust, and dirt, and hard work and she loved him more than anything else in the world.
He faded from her hands.
Jor-El's hands rubbed her shoulders. She felt his cheek against her hair.
"I only want Clark to be happy," she whispered. "Please don't do this to him."
"Jonathan Kent has asked for a bargain to be struck. I will not grant his request, because the coin which he's offered in return for my aid is not his alone to give."
Martha felt cold. "What? What is it?"
"He asks for time in exchange for time. For each hour Kal-El remains with you, he will sacrifice a year of his life."
"Clark has gone," Martha murmured. "It's too late."
"He will return."
"By the hand of his father," Jor-El said. He reached around to touch Martha's abdomen. "You've already made a sacrifice, and not of your own free will. I cannot ask more of you Martha Kent."
She closed her eyes, sinking into the comfort of her dream lover's presence, fighting to understand his cryptic words, frightened of the decision she now had to make.
"Jonathan says Clark isn't ready. I trust him," Martha said softly. "But I love him. If I lose him too soon...." Her voice caught. Tears filled her eyes. She blinked, and they fell upon her cheeks. "What will I have left?"
Darkness wrapped around her in an intimate embrace.
"A son," Jor-El whispered. "Our son."
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