Off Limits

by a campbell


Feedback is much appreciated. Thanks to everyone who audienced on my LJ.
www.livejournal.com/users/acampbell


This was not going to work. It had seemed like a good idea in the beginning, but it was turning out all wrong.

The hiding place was chosen on impulse, after all. Jonathan was waiting, anxious for bed (it was their anniversary, after all, and what a day it had been!). Martha was exhausted and an emotional wreck after her ordeal as hostage at the Luthorcorp offices in Metropolis. She didn't exactly spend a long time pondering her decision.

Who else ever went into the old tin flour canister? She was the only one that used it. It took only a moment to burrow a spot for the metal shape and scoop a couple of handfuls of flour over and around it. And place the container in the cupboard under the sink.

No one in the family went poking around under the kitchen sink unless they had to. Mysterious can-shaped rust stains that appeared for no reason, the eternal smell of garbage from the disposal, the grocery-store plastic bags that multiplied faster than was believable, mysterious, seeping moisture from who knows where? She never went under there herself if she could help it. And it was probably the last place intruders would look. Even if they peered under the sink, they probably wouldn't look in the flour canister.

The octagon would be safe there.

She wasn't going to tell the guys about it. The less they knew, the better, since guys usually managed to mess things up. It would be her secret. One of many, she thought with a chuckle.

A momentary hiding place, but she figured it could work, for awhile, at least. It was out of the way, and no one would disturb it. Or so she'd figured.

The first complication to hit was Clark's afternoon study party with Pete, Chloe and Lana, early the following week. Martha had just gotten home from work when the teenage whirlwind hit the kitchen.

"Mom!" Clark called. "Is it okay if we bake cookies? Chloe says you broke down and gave her the sugar-cookie recipe last time she was here." Clark had a way of completely taking over the kitchen, whenever he came through the door, and Martha cringed. She just couldn't deal with this right now. Time for a 30-minute nap while the kids destroyed the place.

"Sure, honey," she said absently, setting her briefcase and purse down on the counter. "Just promise not to leave a mess. I don't mind if you want to bake, but you always say you'll clean up afterward, and you never do."

"Not this time. We'll be good, Mom, I promise. Right, guys?" Chloe and Pete nodded, their expressions appropriately angelic.

"Hmmm. Flour." Clark was scanning the recipe and then the shelves. "Where is it? It's not where it usually is, Mom. What happened to it?"

"Hmm?" Martha was leafing through the day's mail as she headed out the door, her back was to Clark. He didn't see the look of horror that flashed across her face. "No, wait!"

"What?" Clark exclaimed in alarm, almost bumping his head. He'd just bent over to start rummaging around under the sink. Martha appeared breathlessly at his side before he was able to reach inside.

She didn't mean to smack his hand away, but she did. She knew it wouldn't hurt anything but his dignity, anyway.

"Forget the baking, kids. I've changed my mind. Not tonight. Here, have these instead." She opened an upper cupboard, reached inside, and shoved a bag of Chips Ahoy across the countertop in their general direction.

"Mom," Clark almost whimpered. And, she knew she shouldn't embarrass him in front of his friends, but, well, that was just too bad this time.

The kids all thought she was a pushover mom, anyway, always saying yes to everything, even the time they wanted to make homemade candles by melting crayons, of all things. She was still finding wax chips in all the drawers. It wouldn't hurt them all to have her say no, for once.

"Mom, why not ?" Clark's voice was perilously close to a whine.

"It's just too much, right now," Martha knew she sounded really frazzled. "I need to fix dinner in a bit. You guys will be in the way."

Clark opened his mouth to protest again, but then sighed. "Okay," he said dejectedly, seeming to know that it wouldn't look well to throw a super-tantrum in front of his friends. "But, these won't be as good." He grabbed the bag of store-bought cookies and gave his mom the puppy eyes which usually worked on everyone.

"I'll bake you some cookies this weekend, sweetie," she coaxed. "Promise."

"But the other guys won't be here, then!" he pouted.

"Clark, it's okay," said Lana, the peacemaker, putting a hand on his arm. Chloe and Pete nodded in agreement.

"So, you can invite them over again!" said Martha, growing annoyed "Or take them some the next day."

"It's okay, Clark," Lana repeated. She put a hand on the cookie bag and drew it away from Clark's grasp. "We'll take the Chips Ahoy. Thank you, Mrs. Kent."

Lana was such a sweet girl, thought Martha. The disappointed kids filed out the kitchen door and back to their studies, and Clark's mother sighed with relief.

Two evenings later, Martha got nervous again. She was dreamily doing dishes as Jonathan tensely tried to push past her to get under the kitchen sink.

"The sink upstairs is plugged, Martha. Let me get the plunger."

"What?"

"Just move over," he directed, "I'll get it." He put a hand on the knob to open the door.

"No!" she exclaimed, shaking dishwater from her hands. "I'll get it, Jonathan. Just a minute!" She shoved past him, yanked open the door, bent down and scrabbled around frantically in the cupboard. In a moment, she straightened up, handing the plunger to her husband with a bright, innocent smile and a sigh of relief.

"What's the problem, Martha?" he asked suspiciously, taking the tool from her hand.

"Nothing," she said, smiling nervously and wiping her hands on her apron.

"You need to relax," he said, as he exited. "You're still not over that brouhaha at Luthorcorp. Must have upset you more than you realized. Maybe you should tell Lionel you're taking a week off to recover. Yeah, tell him. Don't ask him."

Martha took a deep breath and considered that maybe he was right.

Then, there was Jonathan, trying to be nice. He'd come up behind her, nuzzled her neck and slipped his arms around her waist as she sat brushing her hair in the morning before work. "No, Jonathan," she protested gently, "Don't even think about it. There isn't time."

"It's not that Martha," he began, with a chuckle. "I was just thinking, that's all."

Martha laughed, too. "Well, that's always a bad sign!"

Bo smiled, and continued. "You remember we missed our anniversary picnic. So, how about we give it another try? This weekend? Just the two of us, of course. Clark won't mind."

"Sure, honey," she agreed. "That would be nice."

"I'll even do my fried chicken again, just for you."

"Okay," she agreed, and then remembered. Oh, no. He'd need flour for that.

"Oh, Jonathan, don't go to all that trouble. Just sandwiches will do fine." Her mind scurried frantically for some way to talk him out of the chicken. Jonathan didn't cook that often, but once he set his mind on making a particular dish, he was hard to dissuade.

"No, I insist," said Jonathan. "We should do this picnic up right. I'm not going to let the Luthors spoil everything for us." He said the name as though disgusted by the bad taste it left in his mouth.

"We've had chicken a lot, lately," Martha protested weakly, and then sighed. Jonathan would eat chicken every day, given the opportunity.

That evening, she decided to issue an ultimatum.

"Listen, guys," she said that night, around dinnertime. "The cabinet under the sink is off limits until further notice."

"Why?" Clark wondered. He slid open the silverware drawer to get the utensils for the meal.

"What's wrong with it?" asked Jonathan as he poured out two glasses of milk and handed one to his son.

"Nothing's wrong with it," Martha almost snapped, growing flustered. "Because I said so!" She realized with dismay that this request was a mistake; Clark and Jonathan may rarely have looked under the sink before, but now, they'd want to, just because she'd told them not to! Just like Bluebeard's wife, or Pandora. Jonathan, especially, could be a real snoop if he thought she was hiding something. That was why Martha had stopped keeping a personal journal shortly after they had gotten married. He always read it, and then always felt compelled to tell her what he'd done, in the interests of honesty. But, she'd rather not have known.

And Clark? Well, she didn't trust him, either.

"You don't have to get huffy, Mom," Clark sounded really ornery this evening, she thought. She knew Jonathan had put a moratorium on visits to Luthor Manor until further notice, and Clark was taking it hard, but, still, she wasn't going to brook any opposition at present.

"You may be able to fly now, young man, but don't let it go to your head!" Clark flashed her a brief scowl and continued placing silverware on the table with very ill grace.

Martha made an effort to calm down. She really needed to think things through a little better before she spoke.

Maybe she just hadn't realized what an indispensable item to the Kent household the flour canister really was.

Martha sighed. It had seemed like a good idea in the beginning. But, it was not going to work. She'd have to find another place in which to conceal the mysterious piece of metal.

Hmm. Okay, she had it. For now, at least.

The box of Tampax she kept under the upstairs bathroom sink. No guy would ever go in there, not in a million years.



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