Maternal Instincts

by Laura Shapiro

TITLE: Maternal Instincts
AUTHOR: Laura Shapiro
SPOILERS: Nocturne
SUMMARY: Martha has a new life during the day...and at night.

By Laura Shapiro

Martha walked the six miles to the mansion every day. What would have taken fifteen minutes by car took more than an hour on foot, but Jonathan needed the truck. And anyway, Martha liked the way it kept her mind clear.

Working for Mr. Luthor let her use her mind in ways she'd forgotten about. Other people didn't understand this, but she wasn't just a secretary. Yes, she knew that he preferred her to read the Wall Street Journal first, and then the financial section of the New York Times, and then the international news, all while he sipped coffee (no cream, one sugar) and tapped his fingers on the brass handle of his cane. But he needed more than that, and she was happy to give it: not just small comforts, but calculations, advice. A conscience.

When her throat got dry, she sipped iced tea until her pulse raced. That was when she had to be careful. Sometimes she couldn't stop her mouth, found herself laughing at his jokes -- or worse, making him laugh with some nonsense of her own. He liked different sorts of jokes than Jonathan did. Jonathan liked puns. Mr. Luthor liked her occasional mean streak, the sarcasm she wanted to shut the barn door behind, too late, too late.

Martha wasn't proud of it, but she liked bringing him drinks and brushing stray hairs off his shoulders every bit as much as she liked doing research for his reports and discussing the stock market with him. She hadn't been needed this way since Clark was a little boy. While the Luthors certainly had a huge staff to select Lionel's clothes for the day, draw his bath and test its temperature, design his menu with his nutrition and taste firmly in mind, the sense of his dependence was a constant hum beneath their banter, his charm. Her smiles.

Which he couldn't see, and thank god for that. Just yesterday she had caught herself leaning over him so closely, reaching to take a folder, that a sighted man would have had a perfect view down the front of her favorite salmon pink sweater. For an instant she had imagined dropping the folder and removing his glasses with one hand while she pressed his face to her breast with the other. She could feel it so clearly, the soft scratch of his whiskers against her skin, the almost painful pull of his lips. His teeth.

He would ask her, she was almost sure. At some point. Maybe soon. Not directly, but in some sophisticated way that left no doubt of his intention, but plenty of room to intentionally misunderstand it. And she would say no, of course. She would refuse, for Jonathan and Clark, for her own peace of mind, but mostly for him. He needed her to be that kind of person: a woman who said no, for all the right reasons. She understood that. She didn't let herself think about what he would say, if she were to ask him.

Evenings were quieter at home these days. She spooned out the results of whatever she'd put into the crockpot that morning, or she set out ketchup and relish while Jonathan flipped burgers off of the grill. They asked Clark about school. But there was still wariness at the dinner table, a quality of silence she didn't know how to combat. She supposed it would take time.

At night, every night now, when Jonathan pounded into her, she rose up to meet him and held on. She held on tight.


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