Title: MOTHER'S MILK
Author: Janet F. Caires-Lesgold
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Category: Story, angst, dialogue, Martha POV - sequel to "Secret Recipe"
Spoilers: Post-ep for "Rogue" (though I'm keeping it Victoria-optional for now)
Rating: PG-13 (yes, it's really me)
Pairing: Clark/Lex (well, it's being discussed...)
Summary: Ma Kent has a talk with Clark
DISCLAIMER: These characters do not belong to me. Smallville is the property of Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, Tollin-Robbins Productions, and Warner Bros. Television, and based upon characters originally created by Jerome Siegel and Joe Shuster. This story is just for the entertainment of my online friends and myself, not for any profit.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This piece is the fourth story in "The Nourishment Series", which can be found elsewhere on my webpage - You don't have to read them first, but it might help.
DEDICATION: For Tiff and gay porn stars everywhere. (Wait, that didn't come out right...)
COPYRIGHT: (C) January 25, 2002, Janet F. Caires-Lesgold, email@example.com
Please don't redistribute or alter this story in any way without the express permission of the author. Thank you very much.
Clark hasn't eaten in three days.
He gets up and goes to school, comes home and does his chores, then sits at the dinner table with us and stares at his plate while Jonathan and I talk about money or town gossip or baseball. He might think I don't notice that he hasn't touched his food, but it's my job to notice: I'm his mother. The package of Vanilla Wafers in the pantry hasn't even been opened. Something's wrong.
I haven't said anything to his father, nor have I pried into what's bothering him. There's no way for me to know if it's about his father being wrongly jailed, or the threats to his privacy from that detective, or what... When he's ready to talk, or to eat, he will.
This afternoon when I come in with a peck of apples for the house, he is sitting at his place at the table, studying. Surreptitiously, I look at his face to see if he doesn't feel well. There are dark circles under his eyes, his normally rosy cheeks are pale, and the sparkle in his eyes has dulled considerably. I know if I were to ask him how he felt, he'd just mutter, "Fine," then continue to stare blankly at the pages of his biology textbook. Finally, I can't stand it anymore, and reach to straighten the placemat near his hand, brushing his skin with my fingertips as I do so. I am relieved to note no fever, nor any noticeable chill, in his temperature.
It is decidedly nippy outside, though, so as a last resort, I heat some milk in a pan on the stove and measure out some of the good cocoa. I may not know what's going on in Clark's head, but I do know that it would have to be pretty serious for him to refuse my patented high-test hot chocolate. Taking his favorite mug down from the cabinet, I pour him a steaming serving and set it just within his reach without disturbing him.
With one eye on my boy, I start peeling carrots for dinner. Before long, his hand rises from his book, but instead of reaching for the handle of the mug, he turns a page, possibly the first one since he first sat down.
"Okay," he murmurs, glancing at me over the top of his book. I practically will him to say more, but he is mum for the moment.
"Did you and Lana have a fight?" I ask, almost jokingly. I can't help but remember a spat they got into one summer when they were both eight, and they didn't speak to each other for two whole hours.
His book closes, and he looks anywhere but at me. "No," he insists, but the way the word is drawn out, I know I can expect some explanation for his mood very soon. "Mom?" Well, here it comes. Look unconcerned.
"Mmmm-hmmmm?" I reply, my attention turned raptly on my pot of carrots.
"How did you first know you were in love with Dad?"
And I was worried that he was dwelling on our more recent life-crises. Just love. This I can handle. "Oh, I don't know..." I hedge, running water over the vegetables. "I guess when I realized that I'd rather do nothing at all just to be with him than to do nearly anything with anybody else."
I glance at him and catch his eye studying me intently. "Yeah..." he almost sighs, and I understand that my words have hit home.
"Is there any reason you're asking me this right now?" I ask, lifting the lid of the crock pot and stirring the ham and beans simmering within.
"Maybe..." he hints, and I am heartened to see a small blush creep across his wan cheeks.
"Are you in love?" I pursue, making absolutely sure not to look at him directly.
This produces another "Maybe...", this one followed by what might have been a chuckle, but ends up sounding like a heartbroken sigh.
"I thought you said that you and Lana weren't having a fight..."
He actually cuts me off, saying, "It's not about Lana."
"Oh, really?" I contemplate sitting across from him, but the last thing I want him to think is that I'm grilling him for information. Instead, I decide to jostle it out of him gently. "Is it Chloe? A girl in your class?" So maybe I'm failing at the gentle part of it... Rather than getting him to open up to me, my questions have shut him up again. I turn to look him in the eye, and can see that he's struggling to come up with the right words. After I wipe my hands on a towel, I move to stand gripping the back of the chair I usually use at the table, trying to look supportive. "What is it, Clark? You know you can tell me anything, right?"
He sighs, "Yeah." There is no sound in the entire house except for the ticking of the clock in the hall. "Will you promise me something?" he asks me eventually.
"Don't tell Dad about this, okay?"
I slip easily into the chair before me and clutch my hands in my lap, as I don't want him to see my knuckles turn bone white as I anxiously anticipate what he wants to say. "About what?"
"Promise me first you won't tell him." His eyes are dark and foreboding.
"I promise. What's the matter?"
He swallows roughly before he can speak. "It's not a girl."
"Oh." My voice sounds surprised, but fortunately not horrified, which would be the very last impression I want to give Clark. For a fleeting moment, I wonder where to sit down, until I remember that I'm already sitting down. He doesn't speak again, not right away, so I verify with him, "You're saying that you think you're in love?"
I'm surprised his gaze doesn't set the table on fire, and I wonder if my hands worrying each other in my lap beneath the wooden surface even register to him. "Yeah," he answers at last.
"...with another boy?" Even while I deny to myself that I have any justification for my reaction, inside, I try to shore up the pegs that he's knocked out from under me with his admission.
His eyes shut tightly, and his eyelashes are damp. "I'm so sorry..." he begins.
My hands fly up from my lap so quickly that I bark my wedding ring on the underside of the table, and I grasp his hands that are folded on top of his closed book. "Don't say that! Why should you have to be sorry that you're in love?"
With a startled expression, he opens his eyes, dislodging a tear that rolls down his cheek in spite of itself. "I don't want you to be disappointed in me..."
"Sweetie," I reassure him, reaching to wipe the tear away with my thumb, "your father and I could never be disappointed in you because of whom you love. You can't help that. We might be a bit concerned, because this might make life more challenging for you. I mean, a lot of people don't approve of that kind of thing, but your father and I aren't that kind of people." The image of Clark being persecuted for being different suddenly takes on an entirely new meaning for me. I continue, pointedly avoiding any loaded labels. "We just want you to be happy. Are you?" He doesn't answer me. "Are you sure about this? Does this boy love you back?"
"I don't know," he almost wails, a sob very close to the surface.
"Why? What's wrong? Did something happen? Is he pressuring you? Does he want things to move faster than you're ready for them to go?"
"That's not it at all!" More tears are starting to flow, but I hesitate to let go of his hands to get him a tissue.
As calmly as I can muster, I ask, "Then what? Just give me a hint..."
Clark bites his bottom lip to keep it from quivering. "The other day... He wanted to do something nice for me, and I just couldn't let him. I really shot him down, and I walked away. I haven't heard from him since..." He pulls his hands away from mine and buries his face in his arms folded on the table.
I am not surprised by his insistence on refusing help from a friend, but my curiosity on the further facts of the story must remain unfulfilled, as this seems to be all he wants to share. Maybe he just needs a little scolding to make him repair his own fences. "So this is because of you?" I nudge. All he does is nod silently, without lifting his head. "I suspect you ought to tell him you're sorry, rather than me. Have you tried to apologize?" A negative shake of the dark head on the table. "If you love him, don't you think that's your next step here?"
He sniffs hard and sits up again, nodding but not looking me in the eye. "Yeah. I'll think about that..."
Just then, the phone rings, so I go to answer it. A very businesslike voice on the other end addresses me. "Mrs. Kent! Lex Luthor here. How are you this fine fall day?"
"Very well, thank you. What can I do for you?"
"I was wondering if I could speak to Clark, please?"
"Certainly. Just a moment..." Clark hasn't really looked up, so I call his name to get his attention. "Clark? Telephone...."
He clears his throat and stands to take the phone from my hand, shaking himself just a little. "Hello?" he says into the receiver. I return to my cooking, not letting on that I'm listening. "Lex!" he crows. "God, I was worried about you! I wanted to tell you... Yeah, everything worked out okay. Thanks..."
The back door swings open, and Jonathan bustles in with an armload of fatwood for the fireplace. "Hello, Ma. Is dinner ready yet?"
I offer my cheek and get a sweet nuzzle and a warm pucker. "No, but it won't be long now."
Over the sounds of Jonathan unloading the logs, I can just hear Clark on the cordless phone in the next room: "Man, I am soooo sorry about that. I was a big jerk..."
Snippets of our earlier conversation come together in my head, just as my husband asks, "Do I smell hot chocolate? Don't I get any?"
I look around for Clark's mug, but he's taken it with him. Suddenly I understand why he didn't want his father to know what was troubling him... "Sit down, little boy," I tease Jonathan, who must have learned to make doe eyes from Clark. "I'll make you some hot chocolate to tide you over until we eat..."
Two things keep repeating in my head as I get out the cocoa again: I think Clark is getting his appetite back, and I think he's in love with Lex Luthor.
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