Color Me Stronger Than I Look

by Marisol

Rated: G
Category: Drama
Spoilers: Pre-Smallville.
Description: Abby drops by the Kents to pick up some flowers. Martha is less than enthused. (Pre-Smallville) Notes: This story takes place in 1986. For the canon-challenged, Abby is Pete's mother. I guess I should also mention that, I worked on this on and off for over six months, as my interest level came and went. So if it's a little stale and tastes like it's been reheated and stirred too many times, you'll no why. Disclaimer: Not mine. Not mine.
Feedback: I fiend for it.

Through the storm door that was ajar, Abby could see Martha standing in the kitchen. At the risk of appearing voyeuristic, she hesitated at the door. Long ago, the Kents had told her that she could walk right in if she knew they were home, but she had never taken them up on the offer. She always knocked as a courtesy, as she did today. Martha looked up and headed to the door.

"Hello Abby," she said, opening the door.

"Hey girl," she said to Martha, who was letting her in, "I can't thank you enough for taking my order on such a short notice. I was fixing dinner and tearing through the house with the DirtDevil when it dawned on me that some of your violets would be a wonderful centerpiece for our dinner." Abby chuckled as she followed Martha back to the kitchen. "Don't worry, I won't tell Nell." Martha said nothing. Abby paused a moment. "I hope it wasn't too much trouble."

"It wasn't," Martha said, in a way that was more polite than reassuring. She picked up a small, corrugated paper crate filled with violets from the floor and set it on the kitchen table. "There's twelve there, all I have left."

"Oh," Abby said, a little embarrassed. "I won't take them all, just give me half."

"No that's OK," Martha said. Then without further ceremony, she wiped her hands on her jeans, and went to the sink, apparently making dishwater. Abby stared at the back of Martha's head with something between confusion and hesitation at offense. Martha's garden had flourished this year, and she was usually flattered by Abby's requests. Maybe she was tired.

"You...OK, Martha?" Abby asked after a few moments.

"Yeah, I'm good," Martha replied, without turning around. Abby just nodded, moving closer to the sink.

"While I'm here, I might as well let you know: next week, I'm going to be completely MIA. You know that woman who was murdered in the next county over?" Abby paused for some type of confirmation. Martha nodded - or maybe she was scrubbing the casserole dish. "Anyway, don't tell anyone, but Senator Bildo has emerged as the prime suspect," Martha turned abruptly, clearly shocked. Abby continued. "Yeah, and Berkley, Nixon & Cooke have been hired as his representation. Attorney Smith has already declared all hands on deck for this one, and I think this might finally be my opportunity to break away from the pack. This case is going to be pretty high-profile, and I don't want to blow it." Martha gave her a shallow smile and put the casserole dish in the dish rack.

Just then, Jonathan walked in through the side door, wiping his boots on the doormat. "Hey, Hon," he said, pecking her on the cheek. "Abby, how you doing?"

"Fine, Jonathan, and you?"

"Good, good," he assured her. "The weather's finally breaking, giving me a chance to get out there and get some real work done."

"You check on the tomatoes?" Martha said, face glowing.

"Oh yeah," he said, "and they're looking good, turning a little red. I'm gonna pull 'em before they ripen too much more." He strummed the counter with his fingers, before suddenly starting. "And - " he continued excitedly, "did you see the bird feeder? I've seen a little bit of everything out there." He turned to Abby with a grin. "Martha's got me bird-watching and doing...shall we say, more delicate outdoor activities." Martha laughed.

"Well, what are wives for?" she added, poking him in the arm. Jonathan just nodded, rummaging through the junk drawer by the sink. He emerged with a box of spindle bearings.

"Hey," he said, suddenly looking up. "Isn't you anniversary today?"

"Yeah," Abby said, "Eleven looong years." She chuckled, "Just kidding." Jonathan was unfazed.

"I can't wait till Martha and I hit that number," he said, pulling Martha towards him with her belt loops and then kissing her on the forehead. Martha blushed. "Hey Abby, if you need us to keep a couple of the boys, Martha and I wouldn't mind," Jonathan offered.

"Just a couple?" Abby asked. Jonathan's face registered panic; he hadn't heard himself. Abby heard Martha snicker.

"Well all of them," he clarified, clearly mortified at the thought, but trying to affect willingness. Abby just laughed.

"Thanks for the offer, but they're spending the night at Bill's mother's house." Abby was far from offended; she knew her brood could be a handful.

"Well ladies, I've crashed your hen session long enough." Jonathan announced, heading for the door. "Happy anniversary Abby; send my regards to Bill, won't you?"

"Sure," Abby said, and with that, Jonathan left. She turned back to Martha. "Those years will pile up before you know it," Abby quipped.

"Yep," Martha said, with the same gravity she had shown before Jonathan had come. Abby was stunned. She figured it was time to leave.

"So, I guess I'll be heading back. How much do I owe you?" she asked.

"Nothing," Martha said, while hurriedly scrubbing the table. Abby lifted the crate, and headed out of the kitchen door.

"Thanks, Martha...I really appreciate it," Abby said. Martha said nothing. Abby couldn't pretend to be cheery another moment. "Please tell me what's wrong. If I've done something, tell me. You can be honest."

"Honest," Martha repeated, with a dramatic halt in her scrubbing to punctuate the statement.

"What does that mean?" Abby implored. So there was something. Martha sighed and leaned on the table..

"Ever since I've come to Smallville, we've been very close. I've considered you one of my best friends. So why did I hear that you and Bill were expecting at the Arkins' bonfire?" Abby had an instantaneous moment of both profound enlightenment, shock - and silence. Martha continued. "Hazel and Beth and Lisa and Carol were oh-so-shocked that I hadn't heard, since, you know, you and Abby are so close. They all couldn't imagine why I hadn't heard. Of course, didn't you get one of the beautiful announcements. Oh you didn't?"

"OK, Martha, I get it," Abby finally replied, dropping the crate back on the table. "I was planning on telling you."

"Really? When exactly?" she asked. "Let me guess. My announcement got lost in the mail." Abby took a moment to collect her thoughts. Martha wasn't so patient. "Abby, I shouldn't have even brought this up." She started walking towards the living room and towards the front door.

"Wait Martha," Abby said. "I have your announcement sitting on my vanity. It was the first one I filled out...after my mom's."

"Abby," Martha snapped, turning around, "there is nothing you can say. I mean, you see me almost everyday. Come on, I'm not an idiot. If you'd wanted me to know, I would have known. Just - ," she shook her head, heading back to the door, "just go and enjoy your dinner with your husband."

Abby wasn't leaving until...until this got sane. And she knew there was more. "This isn't about being the last to know, is it?" she asked.

Martha suddenly turned around and made her way back to Abby, looking hard before opening her mouth.

"I really thought you were different, Abby," she chuckled a heavy chuckle. "I love Jonathan to death, but some days, I swear, the mentality here makes me wanna turn on my heels and head back to where I came from. You think I don't see the way the women look at me. Don't you think I see the pity in their eyes. 'Poor Martha Kent; can't even have a her own baby.' Don't you think I notice the way I get skipped over for the baby pools, and the shower collections, or the way people tiptoe around me in conversation. The things they don't say are even worse than the things they do." She looked up, tears pooling in her eyes. "I expect that from other women, Abby. But I thought we were beyond that."

"Hold on, Martha," Abby started, "I admit that I have put off telling you about my pregnancy. You actually were one of the first people I thought of when I found out. But, every time it would occur to me to tell you - " She stopped. There was no easy way to say this. "I would remember the hours we spent discussing your disappointment when you found out you couldn't have children. I'd think of all the money you spent, all the treatments you endured and all the trips back and forth to Metropolis. I'd imagine how many nights you had cried yourself to sleep, hoping against hope for a miracle. How could I waltz in here and tell you I'm working on my sixth unplanned pregnancy? I couldn't. And not because I think you're pitiful. But because you're my friend, and when you hurt - I hurt."

Martha was full on crying at this point, and her hands were pressed against her eyes. She started to speak. "I'm sure you didn't mean to slight me, but...but can you imagine - ," her voice faltered and she paused a minute to regain control. "Abby, I don't want to be defined by my infertility. There's more to me than that. I'm stronger than people give me credit for."

The words stung. Fearing rejection, she slowly held out her hand to Martha. To Abby's relief, she took it. "Martha, you are savvy, industrious, loyal. You're a model wife, a second mother to my kids, and one of the best friends I've ever had. That, Martha, is how I define you, and how I always will."

Both seemed touched by the confession. Martha even smiled a little, and the two women embraced.

Abby picked up the crate again, slowly making her way for the door, batting at the iron latch that had fallen out of use, hesitating at the door.

"Abby," Martha called out. Abby turned around "So how far along are you?" Martha asked. She was smiling. Abby's heart leapt.

"Four months," Abby replied.

"Congratulations," she replied.

"Thank you, Martha," she said, letting the door shut after her.

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