Sunday, December 03, 2006

I Remember

Manip by TW1977. Used with permission of the artist.

Martha/Chlark
Various seasons and futurefic (spoilers for "Pilot," "Tempest," "Splinter," "Reckoning," and "Rage")
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.

I remember when Clark was a toddler. We found him stark naked in the middle of a cornfield. Or to be more truthful about it, he found us.

Jonathan and I were hanging upside down in our old pickup truck, which had flipped when it hit a long, deep gash cut into the asphalt road by one of the meteors. As we fought our way back to consciousness, a little smiling face peered in at us through the windows.

When we managed to get free of the seatbelts and struggle out of the totalled truck, I was afraid he'd run away from us. The small spaceship we found nearby indicated clearly that he was a stranger to this world, and I worried he might be afraid of us. But he let me wrap him in a blanket and pick him up, and he put his arms around my neck and held on like he'd known me forever. Like he trusted me to take care of him.

He had enormous green eyes, and a head of thick, unruly, dark brown hair, and he was quite simply the most beautiful little boy I'd ever seen. He smiled at me, showing a mouthful of incredibly white teeth, and I couldn't help myself. I smiled back. Somehow I knew he'd grow up into a wonderful man.

I knew it from the very beginning.

*****

I remember when Clark turned ten. We never had birthday parties, because he'd gotten so preternaturally strong that any event with a bunch of rowdy boys could turn deadly. We couldn't let him play any sort of sport, and we tried to keep him out of group situations as much as possible. We hadn't had much choice but to let him go to school, but Jonathan lectured him constantly on the need for caution.

Clark was a good boy, and he'd never hurt anyone on purpose, but just like any boy, he could be careless, and if he got overexcited, he could easily hurt someone. I remember once he was playing ball with Jonathan. Jonathan threw the football too hard, and Clark turned around and ran... and went crashing straight through the wall of the barn.

He wasn't hurt. But it took Jonathan two days to patch the gaping hole in the barn.

I didn't want another child being run over by Clark and hurt, or possibly killed, so birthday parties were off limits. But I usually made a cake for him. I was frosting this year's cake-- chocolate with chocolate icing, as he'd requested. Apparently little boys liked chocolate, whether they were from Earth or some other planet entirely. Not that Clark knew that he was from another planet. We hadn't thought it was safe to share that information with him yet, for fear he'd tell someone. And in many ways he was perfectly normal.

But in just as many ways, he was utterly alien.

Drawn by the scent of chocolate, Clark bounded into the kitchen. He'd just had a growth spurt, and he looked leggy and awkward, not unlike a colt. His face was thin right now, and his high cheekbones stood out even more than they usually did. But his eyes were just as big and green as they'd been when he was a toddler, and his hair was just as rumpled and wavy. He was still a beautiful boy, and my heart swelled with pride and love every time I looked at him.

"Mom," he said, sidling toward the cake and sticking out a finger. I let him swipe a sample of the frosting, even though I had serious doubts about the cleanliness of his fingers. It was his cake and his birthday, after all. He stuck his finger in his mouth and licked off the frosting, then looked up at me with big eyes. "I was sort of wondering if I could have Pete over, at least."

Pete Ross was his best friend, and the two boys played together for hours with no problems. But I wasn't sure it was safe for him to have anyone over for his birthday. What if Clark got excited and did something careless?

"You know the rules," I said, looking at the cake so I didn't have to look into his hopeful eyes. "No parties."

"But Mom." His voice held a hint of a whine. "Pete's my friend. And he likes your cake a lot."

"Birthdays are just a family thing, Clark. Okay?"

"It's not fair." His tone was definitely veering toward whininess. "Everyone else gets big parties. Pete got a magician at his party, and I couldn't even go. How come I have to be different?"

"Different isn't necessarily bad, Clark."

"It's bad when you can't have birthday parties." He sounded like he might cry. He was a big boy now, and didn't cry very often, but he wasn't averse to a few fake sniffles if he thought it might help change my mind. But he sounded like he was really fighting to suppress his tears, so I was pretty sure this wasn't just an effort to sway me. "I just want to have Pete over, Mom. Pleeeeeaaaase."

I used the knife to spread out a glob of frosting. "Well... all right. Just Pete."

He flung his arms around me, pressing his face against my shoulder. "Thanks, Mom," he said happily. "You're the best."

"I know." I hugged him, then pushed him away. "Now go call Pete."

I couldn't help but smile as I watched him bounce away, wildly excited because he had one single person coming over for his birthday. The poor kid. It wasn't easy being different, and I was grateful he had one real friend.

I wondered how things would go when he hit adolescence. Could he fall for human girls, or would he spend his life alone, unable to love anyone who wasn't of his own species? Was he destined to be alone, and lonely?

My own marriage meant a great deal to me, and my husband was the rock I'd built my life on. The thought of Clark being unable to fall in love, unable to ever experience what Jonathan and I had, made my throat tighten. Clark was such a sweet kid, with so much love to give, that it hurt to think of him being all alone in the world.

I firmly pushed the thought aside. I was certain he'd be able to manage a normal relationship somehow. He had to. Because I knew he'd make some lucky girl a wonderful husband someday.

Even when he was only ten, I knew it.

*****

I remember when Clark took Chloe Sullivan to the spring formal. They'd been "just friends" for a year and a half, but I'd noticed him calling her more and more often, hanging out with her all the time, and I'd figured they were sliding toward something more than friendship.

The problem was, Clark had a real thing for the girl next door, Lana Lang. I wasn't surprised Clark was interested in her, because she was lovely, in an exotic, striking way, and I wasn't surprised that she returned his interest to a certain degree, because Clark had matured into a really good-looking boy.

Lana was undeniably pretty, and a nice enough girl, but she didn't strike me as the sort of tolerant girl who'd be able to put up with a strange boy who could run faster than a car, or see through solid objects. Chloe, on the other hand... well, she didn't seem to mind the odd and peculiar. Clark had told me laughingly more than once that she had a collection of clippings at her newspaper office, called the Wall of Weird, documenting all the strange things that went on in Smallville. She liked the odd and peculiar. And maybe that was part of why she liked Clark, because she sensed there was something different about him even then. I don't know.

But even if that was what had first drawn her to Clark, there seemed to be a really solid friendship between the two of them now. The two of them seemed to rely on each other, almost the way Jonathan and I relied on each other.

I watched Clark pace the front hall nervously. Chloe was coming to pick him up, because yet another one of our trucks had just been destroyed, and he looked worried and anxious, like he was afraid she might stand him up. He'd recently put on a growth spurt and was now just as tall as my husband, standing three inches over six feet. Although he was still pretty thin, it didn't show in the tuxedo we'd rented. In his tux, he looked very grown up, and very handsome.

I saw an old red car coming up the driveway, a cloud of dust behind it, and Clark spotted it at the same moment. "Bye, Mom," he said, brushing a kiss over my cheek and heading for the door at warp speed. He checked himself to a more human speed at the door, then strode down the porch steps and toward the car. I stood at the screen door and watched.

The wind was blowing hard, and Clark's hair, which he'd labored over in an effort to make neat, was immediately whipped into its normal unruly style. Chloe got out of the car, wearing a lovely pink gown and a smile that could have lit up Metropolis. It was obvious to me that she really liked Clark a lot. I won't say she loved him-- they were only fifteen, after all, and I think fifteen is too young to truly understand what love is-- but even at that moment, I could see he meant a great deal to her.

And when Clark looked down at her, he looked stunned, almost enthralled, and I knew she meant a great deal to him, too. No matter what he thought he felt for Lana, I knew that there was a real and genuine affection between him and Chloe.

Even when he was only fifteen, I knew it.

*****

I remember when I found out Chloe Sullivan knew Clark's secret. Under the influence of silver kryptonite, Clark had thrown me across the room and was choking his father, apparently under the impression that we'd sold him out to Lionel Luthor.

All of a sudden Clark began gasping. He staggered a little, dropping his father to the floor. I blinked, trying to clear my vision, and saw Chloe standing just behind him, a look of grim determination on her face, a glowing green rock grasped in her hand.

"Just calm down, Clark," she told him, her eyes wide. "I don't want to hurt you."

Clark glared at her. "You're all in this together," he whispered harshly. "I knew it."

He managed to stagger away from her, and apparently got far enough away from the kryptonite for his powers to return. He burst into superspeed, going straight through the kitchen door.

Chloe looked like she wanted to follow him, but obviously realized there was no point in it. Even in a car, no human could hope to keep up with a superspeeding Clark. Instead she dropped the meteor rock and helped Jonathan stand upright.

"Chloe," I said, struggling to my feet and walking toward her. "How long have you known Clark's secret?"

She looked a little embarrassed. "Almost a year."

A year. She'd known a year, and I'd never guessed. Right then I knew we could trust Chloe with our secrets, and that Clark could trust her with his life. And I think Clark knew, too. At least he did once the silver kryptonite left his system and he was normal again.

I've always believed trust is an important part of real love, and I knew then that Chloe loved Clark. Not the way she'd loved him at fifteen, when she'd stared up adoringly at him the night of the spring formal. What she felt for Clark now wasn't just an adolescent, girlish crush, but a very real and lasting love. Maybe Clark hadn't realized how much she loved him yet, but I was sure he would eventually.

I knew how she felt before he did.

*****

I remember seeing Chloe Sullivan watch Clark at my husband's funeral. She didn't approach him, giving him the space he needed to grieve. But she watched him with dark, serious eyes. Every so often, he looked up, and their eyes met.

His girlfriend Lana Lang was standing right next to him, and once she took his hand, but I don't think he noticed. Like me, he was lost in a haze of pain and sorrow. Grief is a lonely thing, something you can't truly share with anyone else.

But every time his eyes focused, every time he tuned into the world for a moment, I noticed it was Chloe he was looking at. Not Lana. Chloe.

Chloe was the one he'd always relied on to help him through his sorrow and pain. She'd been the one he counted on for years. Every time he had troubles, he'd pick up the phone and call her. And now, he was leaning on her emotionally, relying on her presence to get through the funeral. Even though she wasn't holding his hand, wasn't doing anything but looking at him, I knew he was more aware of her presence than anyone else's.

Even through my grief, I knew it.

*****

I remember seeing Clark fall in love with Chloe Sullivan.

Well, strictly speaking I think he'd been in love with her for a long time. But he'd been involved with Lana, and then she'd begun dating some boy who worked at the Daily Planet, and somehow they just hadn't quite managed to get together.

Clark had invited Chloe over for Thanksgiving dinner, because her boyfriend was out of town. Lionel Luthor was there, along with my Chief of Staff Lois Lane and her boyfriend Ollie Queen. It struck me as vaguely amusing that I, once a simple farmer's wife, would have two famous billionaires sitting at my Thanksgiving table.

But I was no longer a simple farmer's wife. I was a state senator. I liked being a politician, liked the sense of challenge and purpose it gave me. And yet I would have gladly traded it in an instant in order to have my husband back.

I looked over at Clark and tried not to grieve for what I'd lost. My husband was gone, but I still had my son, who'd grown into a young man I was very proud of. Jonathan would be proud of him, too. Of that I was certain.

Clark was unaware of my scrutiny. He was looking at Chloe, and the look on his face was one of stark adoration. In that moment I knew he'd finally fallen for Chloe, and fallen hard. He looked at her like she was everything he'd ever wanted.

And then she picked up her cell phone. Apparently she'd gotten a text message from her boyfriend, because a dreamy smile crossed her face, and she pressed a hand to her heart.

Clark's smile faltered, and he looked down at the cranberry sauce on his plate. I took a bite of stuffing to repress my own smile of amusement. After all Chloe's years of pining for Clark, it seemed the tables had turned. It was Clark's turn to pine.

And yet I wasn't really worried for him. Because I was calmly certain that despite any obstacles that might stand between them, despite any other boy she might have a temporary crush on, Chloe truly loved Clark. And now that he knew he loved her too, it was only a matter of time before they got together.

I knew it, even if Clark didn't.

*****

Today my son is standing at the front of a church, wearing a black tuxedo that looks very much like the one he wore to the spring formal years ago. The afternoon sunlight slants through the stained glass windows, so that he appears to glow with blue, red, and yellow light.

And now Chloe Sullivan is walking up the aisle on her father's arm, but the dress she's wearing doesn't look at all like the dress she wore to the formal. It's ivory satin, edged in lace, and it sweeps behind her with a sort of grandeur that doesn't fit her at all. Chloe Sullivan is many things, but "grand" isn't one of them.

Her dress may not resemble the one she wore to the spring formal, but her wide, happy smile is exactly the same as it was all those years ago. She's looking at Clark as if he's the most important thing in the world, and he's looking back at her with that expression of adoration I see on his face every time he looks at her.

I sniff, trying to hold back my tears, at least until the wedding actually starts. I'm not usually this teary, but I'm terribly glad my son has found someone he can love. I remember my earliest fears, the concerns that he wouldn't be able to fall for a human woman, and I'm grateful that isn't the case. I hope Clark and Chloe have exactly what Jonathan and I had-- a long, happy life together.

And maybe it's too much to hope for, considering they're not the same species, but I hope someday they'll give me some grandchildren. I remember holding a little boy in my arms long ago, a little boy with dark, rumpled hair and big green eyes. I'd like to hold another little boy like that, someday.

But I'm getting ahead of myself, because Clark and Chloe haven't even said their vows yet. I try to push the memories away, and focus on the moment. Chloe steps into the pool of red, blue, and yellow light, pausing beside Clark, and smiles up at him. He reaches out to take her hand.

Together, hand in hand, they turn to face the pastor.

I sniffle, very loudly, and brush a tear away. Chloe's lucky to have Clark, and I can tell from the brilliant smile on her face that she knows it. She's a lovely girl, smart and ambitious and fiercely loyal, and I'm happy for him. But I'm even happier for her. Because Clark has grown up into a wonderful, wonderful man, and he'll be a wonderful husband.

I knew he would. I knew it from the very beginning.

-The End-

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow, Elly! That was fabulous! I loved your recount through Martha's eyes. Very well done.

lilisullivan said...

I loved your story! It's beautiful.

SelfAppointedCritic said...

Oh Elly, you've done it again--evoked yet another emotional response from me. Just imagine me grinning from ear to ear and nodding my head while I read through each period. You write so beautifully and have once again masterfully captured the core essence of Martha and the mutual dream of Chlark. Well done and thanks for sharing your hard work!

shansgrl said...

This is truly beautiful.

Khyla said...

SO BEAUTIFUL!
It brought tears to my eyes!

Anonymous said...

you did it again =)! it was brilliantly done (especially through martha's eyes).

just perfect!

joanna / kidkarmina

Anonymous said...

just... amazing.

mom knows best.

Barry

mailerose said...

This is one of those stories that I could read over and over again (and I have!). So beautiful -- probably one of my favorite Chlark fics of all-time!

blackheart_me said...

aww another Chlark marriage pic. SO SWEET! AWW ELLY!! This story is so sweet and emotional. The maternal angle that you took into this story is soo deep. I love how you broke it down through his life from when Martha and Jonathan first found him, to how it was as he grew older. I love how you write down how she knew things before him and saw things he didn't quite notice yet. I felt the maternal love and the way he grew. It was so sweet. Love this story Elly.

Anonymous said...

WOW!!!

I love all your Martha stories, but this one brought tears to my eyes.

WOW!

Phant
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