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Over Coffee

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Over Coffee

by Lady Mondegreen

The curtains in Martha Kent's kitchen were yellow. Bright, cheerful yellow, matching the bright, cheerful sunshine pouring through them.

Lex tore his gaze from the strangely hypnotic colour and turned his head to look at the chatelaine of the Kent kitchen herself. Martha was pouring coffee into two cups - which, he was vaguely surprised to note, did not have any motifs of cows, flowers, or other farm-related imagery on them. The cup she set before him was a plain blue, a match to both her own mug and the plate between them laden with oatmeal-raisin cookies no doubt baked within the past twenty-four hours.

Thankful for her patient silence, he busied himself with pouring a generous amount of sugar into his mug. He knew she made her coffee strong; it was how her boys liked it. Martha poured a bit of cream into hers, stirring it in slowly with her spoon, her face calm, indicating not the least bit of curiosity as to why Lex Luthor was sitting at her kitchen table at ten-thirty on a Tuesday morning.

Lex rarely found himself at a loss for words, but he was suddenly, unaccountably shy before this kind, capable woman. He wondered what had possessed him to come here like this, unannounced and more than likely unwelcome. He'd wanted to speak to her alone, though, and with Clark at school and Jonathan doing farm things in the far fields, circumstances couldn't have been better.

"How are you, Lex?" Martha asked at last, politeness personified.

"I'm-" he started to say, his voice hoarse. He took a sip of coffee, cleared his throat, and began again. "I'm fine, thanks. And yourself?"

"I can't complain."

He nodded, and drank a bit more coffee. It was very good, and he had a momentary thought that, given that she wasn't working for his father anymore, maybe she'd be interested in a job at the Talon. With a mental shake of his head, he took a deep, steadying breath.

"Mrs. Kent, I -"

"Please," she interjected. "In my house, you can call me Martha."

Damn it. He was never going to get through this if she interrupted him. "Thank you, Mrs. - Martha. " The name felt awkward on his lips.

"Martha," he began again. Then he reached for a cookie, worrying it with his fingers, his eyes fixed on it. He couldn't look at her while saying this. "I'd like to talk to you about Clark."

"Oh?" Her voice revealed nothing.

He steeled himself. "And me."

There was a long pause. "Oh. I see."

"Mrs. - Martha, you have to understand what Clark means to me. He's everything," he said lamely.

"Look at me, Lex."

The cookie crumbled in his hands as he obeyed. Only years of tight self-control kept him from flinching at the intensity of her stare. He forced himself to meet her eyes.

"Do you love my son?"

Even if he'd wanted to, he'd be unable to lie to those eyes. "Yes," he said. "Clark saved my life when we first met. He's saved it countless times since then. More importantly, he's saved my soul."

Not looking away, she took a sip of her own coffee. "And how long have you two been together?"

Heat spread across his face. "About a month," he admitted. Actually, it had been exactly thirty-seven days since that first hesitant kiss in Clark's loft. Thirty-seven days of sweet, stolen kisses and tantalizing, brief touches. Of dreams that left him aching and sticky at three o'clock in the morning. "But we haven't... We're not..." He cursed to himself. If he had any hope of getting through this conversation with his sanity intact, he had to be perfectly frank. "I'm not sleeping with him."

The unspoken "yet" hung between them, and she frowned.

"Are you asking my permission?"

"No," he said, slightly shocked. "Nor, quite frankly, do I expect your blessing."

"Then why are you telling me this?"

"Because I'm worried about Clark," he said. "Mrs. Kent, I know that Clark is 'special'."

She made no response. She didn't correct his use of her name, either; the thought gave him a jolt of sadness. Pushing it aside, he went on. "I've known for a while that Clark can do things no one else can. I assume it has something to do with the meteor rocks."

Seeing something dangerous flash in her eyes, he hastened to reassure her. "I admit it did pique my curiosity, but I decided long ago that Clark is too important to me to risk our friendship over it. I assumed he'd tell me if and when he wanted me to know."

Letting go had been one of the most difficult decisions of his life. But if the choice came down to knowing the full truth or being with Clark, well, it really wasn't a choice at all.

"I see," Martha said, relief evident in her voice. Though when Lex added, "He told me last night," she froze.

Ignoring her sudden distress, he pressed on. " I promise you that Clark will get the best possible help. He will get better, and I'll be with him every step of the way."

"Lex, I -" she blinked. "What?"

"If it takes every cent I have, I-" He frowned. "What do you mean, 'what'?"

"What are you talking about?"

Realization dawned. "You don't know?"

"Know what?"

Lex winced. He hated to be the one to tell her this. "Mrs. Kent, Clark apparently thinks he's an alien."

She stared at him, a strange expression on her face. Her eyes closed, and her pursed lips didn't quite hide the tremor that shook them. Lex waited, patient in turn, while she absorbed this information about her son. Finally she seemed to pull herself together.

"I appreciate your concern, Lex," she said, an odd note in her voice. "And your offer to help is very generous, but I don't think it'll be necessary."

"I'm not going to stand by while Clark-"

She raised a hand, and he broke off, upset. It was one thing for the Kents to reject financial assistance for the farm, but this was Clark's mental health at stake.

Martha was watching him again. This time, he stared back defiantly.

"You really do love him, don't you?" she asked.

"Yes, I do."

She contemplated that for a long moment, then sighed. Reaching out, she pushed the plate towards him "Have another cookie," she offered.

He frowned. "Mrs. Kent, I-"

"Lex," she interjected. "I thought I asked you to call me Martha."

His mouth hung open in surprise, and she smiled. "Now, Lex, there's something I have to tell you..."