Notes: For scribblinlenore, who requested: Martha/Jonathan with the prompt: Something romantic, warm, that says holidays are all about the people you love.
Home for Christmas
The radio in the kitchen is tuned to the all-Christmas-songs station, not only because of holiday spirit but because it doesn't broadcast any news, neither local nor international. There are only the familiar songs and voices filling the house with warm memories of past holidays.
Yet when "Joy to the World" comes on, Martha reaches abruptly past Jonathan and cuts it off. Standing beside her at the sink, Jonathan watches her as he scrubs the dishes but says nothing. Martha pretends not to feel the weight of his concern, and briskly scrapes the leftover sweet yam into the compost bin. The brittle rattle of good china fills the silence between them.
It is Christmas Eve and Clark is not home.
With each approaching winter, Martha feels the cold sharper in her bones. Lately the biting Kansas winds make her cough too easily, and the farm work she once finished with only a healthy sweat now leaves her faint and gasping. Each morning Martha finds it harder to get out of bed. She's wearing out, wearing down, like that old tractor she and Jonathan first bought when they took over the farm. They'll be married for nearly thirty years come next spring; it's a quiet shock to remember she's already fifty. She doesn't say anything to Clark because no child, not even one who saves the world on a regular basis, should worry about his parents' mortality any sooner than he needs to. She needn't say anything to Jonathan.
He's a good man, she keeps thinking to herself. In those early days when Clark's abilities first appeared, when the late morning light spilled in through the kitchen window and Jonathan came in tracking mud from the pastures, she'd silently number the lines creasing the skin around his eyes and mouth. Laugh lines and grimace lines, a lifetime carved into the face of the man she loves. And for a while her mornings passed this way, flip the pancakes, fry the bacon, and watch the old age creeping in. She couldn't do anything but watch and count, and every time it took just a bit longer she wondered just how soon it would be before Clark would be alone. Soon, she kept thinking, too soon. Martha stopped counting a long time ago.
It was in those early days that she first told Jonathan of her growing fear. A fear that is proved justified in the years that followed, in the present that Martha now lives. She's never stopping wanting Clark to have a normal life, to know the comfort of coming home to a loved one at the end of the day, to experience the joy and tribulations of fatherhood. She's never stopped hoping. But she knows now just how futile that hope is.
A few winters ago, while on the trail of an expose leading near Smallville, Clark brought a friend home for dinner. Though it was the first time they actually saw her, Lois was no stranger in the Kent household.
Jonathan had always liked her newspaper articles and he liked her even more in person. Martha's husband had always been fond of fiery women and the sprightly exchange between Lois and Clark livened the wintry Kansas night. Martha liked Lois' straight shoulders and direct gaze, and the genuine smile that she brought to her son's face. Martha laid out the good china for dinner that night, and she smiled as she watched her husband and son woo over the dinner table an intelligent and beautiful woman she would proudly have as part of the family. And yet...
Martha looked carefully at Clark that night and she saw the quiet distance in his eyes that jarred with the warm smile on his lips. An old ghost sat between her son and his friend, a ghost that refuses to stay dead and that Clark refuses to kill.
He didn't bring Lois over again for dinner.
Jonathan is disappointed. He's frustrated by Clark's hesitation with Lois, by how he hides behind the blank blue-eyed fašade of Superman, by the way he still comes alone when the family gathers for the holidays. Martha, who knows more than her husband chooses to understand, forces herself to not look at the old Luthor manor when she drives past on her delivery round. The gates are always locked, the lawns slightly overgrown and no one enters the grounds except for the occasional gardener. Martha tries not to look back, she doesn't regret the things that cannot be helped and the years in which something can be done are long past, but a sense of desolation still lingers over her whenever she drives past the abandoned manor.
She cannot help but think of the deserted manor every time Clark says he'll be home for dinner but is late or doesn't come at all.
A film of ice melts on the inside edges of the family room window. Martha sighs as she wipes the windowpane dry with a rag. The heater must have broken down for a while sometime during the day. It's just another reminder of how old and unreliable all the equipments on the farm is getting. She tries not to think of how tired she looked in the mirror this morning, and instead concentrates on wiping down the dinner table. The breadcrumbs and stray peas from the dinner she deftly gathers in one hand to toss into the compost bin later with the half-eaten yams. Martha ignores Clark's clean and untouched place at the table.
Jonathan in the kitchen is still scrubbing the dishes. When she comes up behind him, he tilts his head toward the roiling darkness outside the kitchen window. A snowstorm is approaching. He lays the dishes aside to face her. "Martha," he smiles and says quietly, "we're going to have a white Christmas." Martha considers him for a moment, and then she smiles back, briefly gripping his hand to show she understands.
The door blows open suddenly then and it's Clark, breathless and disheveled, with an apologetic smile and the remains of yet another one of his alter-ego's skirmish smeared in soot across his face. Jonathan laughs, immediately striding to the door to give his son a great bear hug and a manly clap on the back. Martha waits, wipes her hands on a towel, before crossing over to where Clark stands chuckling with Jonathan.
Her joy and relief at having her son back at last makes the entire world light. "Welcome home, Clark," she says. Clark takes in her brilliant smile and kisses her gently on the cheek.
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