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21 April 2012 @ 05:50 am
Love and Other Headaches: When You've Only Got A Hundred Years [Chapter Six; Part Two]  



Lois was a heavy sleeper, but the loud ringing of Kal-El’s cell phone penetrated her dreams.  Slowly waking, she heard his slumber-thick voice answer, and then suddenly grow sharp.  “Ben?  What—?  No!

The note of shock and fear in her husband’s voice worked better than coffee to awaken her.  Lois sat up, aware of a breeze in the room, pulling the sheets up to her chest.  “Kal-El?” she murmured, but he was already gone.

Another spike of adrenaline brought her to full awareness.  Whatever had caused him to leave in such a hurry had to be something major.  His cell phone was lying on the bed; Lois picked it up and dialed the farmhouse.

No one answered.  Trepidation began to slide over into fear as Lois dialed Ben’s cell.  Please don’t let this be what I think it is.  And please don’t let him have done what I think he just did. 

 

 

Kal-El ignored the ringing phone as he burst into the farmhouse.  The front door had been unlocked, as usual, and in his haste he flung it open hard enough that it bounced off the wall.  He was up the stairs without setting foot to them, at the bedroom door a second later, and Ben still had the phone in his hand.  He looked up, shocked, as Kal-El hurried to his mother’s side.  “Clark, what…?” the older man trailed off, perplexed.

Dimly, Kal-El was aware he’d made a mistake.  Ben had said come to Smallville as soon as you can, but he couldn’t have imagined Clark would be there in mere seconds.  At the moment he didn’t care about the secret.  Everything could be explained later. 
“We have to get her to the hospital,” he told Ben urgently, bending to lift his mother’s prone form.

“No, Clark—” Ben began, but Kal-El cut him off.

“There’s still time, I can get her there!”

Ben hand caught his forearm, squeezing as tightly as he could.  He couldn’t pull away without hurting Ben, so he stopped and actually listened for just a moment.  Ben was staring into his eyes, speaking in a low, serious tone.  “Son, no.  It’s too late.  She’s already gone.”

“But….”  He touched his mother’s cheek, felt the coolness of her skin—saw the smile on her face, the expression of content and peace upon her features.  “Ma,” he whispered, and collapsed more than sat in the nearest chair.

One hand on his shoulder, Ben said quietly, “It’s gonna be all right, son.  None of us expected to live forever, you know.  She went peaceful, like she wanted to.”

Kal-El’s breath hitched.  Decades ago, when he had landed on this planet in a fiery meteor and toddled up out of an impact crater, this woman had held her arms out to him.  A naked child walking out of a smoking ruin, and she had picked him up and held him to her breast immediately, instinctively.  To her, he had been a miracle, and it was largely her image of him that had shaped his image of himself.

What if he had been met with fear by the first humans who found him?  What if the first revelations of his strength and other powers had branded him dangerous instead of wonderful?  Who would he be now, if he’d been met by anyone but Martha Kent?  Much of the man he was today was owed to the love of both of his parents, but Martha had been the first person on Earth to see him, first to touch him, first to love him and claim him as her own son.  His shoulders shook, and he buried his face in his hands.

Ben rubbed his shoulders gently.  “It’s okay to cry.  No shame in crying for a woman so well-loved and wonderful.  No shame at all.”  His own voice had grown thick with tears of his own, and Kal-El reached for him blindly.

In the darkened bedroom, waiting for the officials to arrive and tell them what they already knew, stepfather and stepson took comfort in each other’s presence, and neither bothered to ask or explain how Clark had gotten there so quickly.

 

 

In spite of Martha’s age, the news left the family in shock.  When Lois finally got through to the farmhouse and had her worst suspicions confirmed, she could only sit and stare at the phone for a while.  Martha Kent, who had at first been bristling with antagonism toward her for keeping the twins secret for six years, had quickly mellowed into a loving mother-in-law.  The twins had been a constant source of joy and pride to her, and the two women had compared notes on raising half versus full Kryptonians.  Over time they’d become close, and as the friendship between Ella and Martha deepened, Lois began to consider Martha another mom of sorts.  She was always ready with coffee, a hug, some motherly advice, or the occasional scolding, all of which Lois appreciated.

When she managed to wrap her mind around the facts, she began to worry.  Kal-El had flown out there, probably arriving just seconds after Ben told him what had happened.  She needed to concoct a cover story, because Kal-El certainly wasn’t in the right frame of mind to do so.  Fretting over that, Lois promised to handle the rest of the calls herself, letting Ben and Kal-El deal with the situation in Smallville.

There was no debate about waking the Whites, with as close as they’d been to Martha.  Lois called them first, getting Lana on the second ring.  The redhead’s pained cry of surprise woke Richard when the phone didn’t, and once Lois explained the situation to them both, Richard started planning a flight to Smallville.  Lois wouldn’t be able to join them immediately; the Daily Planet needed her, with Clark gone, but she would take a day or two for the service.

She emailed Lucy next.  Luce had grown fond of Martha too, and deserved to know, but probably didn’t want to wake up at this hour.  And then Lois sighed and made the two calls she least wanted to make: to the twins.

Kala was still awake, and Lois made sure Sebast was with her before she told her daughter what had happened.  He wound up taking the phone when Kala started crying, and assured Lois, “We’ll be on the next plane to Kansas, Mom.  Screw the tour.  They can manage without us for a couple shows.”

Jason was sound asleep, and Lois had to talk to him a bit to make sure he was conscious and coherent before giving him the news.  He sniffled, too, and asked after Dad.  When Lois told him Kal-El had flown to Smallville immediately, he picked up on her worry.  “We’re gonna have to do damage-control there,” he said. 

“Or maybe not,” Lois sighed, having come to that conclusion herself.  “I feel like an ass trying to lie to Ben right after this.  If he figures it out, he figures it out, and we’ll deal with that.  It’s still possible he might not even notice.” 

With calls made, Lois glanced at the clock and sighed.  At this hour she might as well get up and make coffee.  She wasn’t going to get any more useful sleep.

 

 

Jason was in Smallville the next day, along with Lana and Richard, leaving Kristin with Lois to arrive just before the funeral.  Kala and Sebast were there even before the rest of the family, having taken a red-eye flight and rented a car.  Dad, of course, had been there from the moment he knew.

The funeral was three days after Martha’s passing, and the time between was filled to the brim.  During those three days, half the town dropped by the farmhouse to pay their respects.  Most of them brought food, which Jason remembered happening after Nana’s passing, too.  No one in the family had felt like cooking with their matriarch gone, so the covered dishes and cold cuts had been very welcome. 

As Jason soon learned, Smallville took the tradition to a higher level.  Not just relatives and close friends, but people Jason had only met casually came to the farmhouse, and most of them did more than bring food.  A group of women including Annette Lang came over while Ben and Clark were at the funeral home going over the details, and they cleaned the house from top to bottom.  Martha had always kept it neat and sparkling, but Annette insisted there had to be a cleansing after a death, and no one gainsaid her. 

The Hubbard boys came over with their kids and offered to handle the farm chores.  Ben declined, wanting to keep some normalcy in his daily routine, but he ended up accepting their help anyway when he found himself too bogged down by funeral arrangements to get the animals fed.

Ben had to make multiple trips to town, and the farm truck wasn’t the most reliable vehicle in the world, so Dustin quietly left his Cavalier at the farm when the Carmichaels came to visit.  Jason hugged him for it, and Dustin had just hugged him back, neither of them really having words that day.

The wake was held at the house the night before the funeral.  Lois and Kristin arrived in time for it, and the little redhead wound up in Ben’s lap for most of the evening.  Everyone had a story to share, and Jason found himself surprised by tears again and again.  It was the first time in years anyone had seen Kala without eye makeup, which would’ve been pointless to wear considering the amount of sniffling she was doing.

The biggest shock for Jason was seeing who walked in, escorted by Dustin.  At first he thought he was seeing things, too bogged down by grief and hallucinating the comfort he wished for.  But then Elise walked directly up to him and hugged him tight.  Jason squeezed her close, sighing against her hair.  “Thank you,” he whispered.

“I’m so sorry, Jason.  I know how much you love her,” she murmured back.  She stayed by his side for the rest of the evening, but she’d checked into the only motel in town and had to leave eventually.  Elise assured him she’d be at the funeral, though, and that gave him strength.  Especially since he had a somewhat larger role than he’d expected, but the honor wasn’t one he would’ve ever refused.

 

 

The funeral was held the next morning, and the church was standing-room-only.  Flowers filled the space, their perfume noticeable but not overwhelming.  The issue of who would be pallbearers had already been decided: Clark, Ben’s two sons, and Jason were all obvious choices.  They needed at least two more, and Richard was honored to be asked.  “Ask Kala,” Jason suggested, while his sister listened in from six rooms away, burrowed into Sebast’s arms in a solemn little ball of unhappiness.

“Pallbearers are usually only men,” Ben’s older son had informed him.

“This family does things a little differently,” Ben had said, his voice without a trace of sorrow for the first time. 

He not only asked Kala to be an actual pallbearer, he invited Lois and Lana to be honorary pallbearers, walking in procession with the casket but not actually doing any lifting.  “Martha Kent strikes a blow for feminism,” Kala murmured to her mom, and Lois managed a rusty chuckle.

Once the church service was completed, the pallbearers walked the coffin out of the church.  Kala was very conscious of the eyes on her.  She’d toned down her makeup to an absolute minimum, worn the most conservation black dress she owned, but the two purple streaks at her temples weren’t going anywhere.  She’d tamed her wavy hair into a sleek updo that minimized the streaks, but she though Grandma would’ve appreciated the dash of color anyway. 

As she walked, one hand on the coffin as it rolled along the aisle on a wheeled carrier, she felt the solemnity of it all pressing down on her.  This was Martha’s body, the woman who had shaped her father’s life.  Only a few weeks ago Kala herself had been in Smallville, eating cookies shaped by the hands that now lay still and cold in this polished wooden box.  Martha, who had supported them all physically, emotionally, and mentally over the years, now relied on them to support her for this final journey.  It was profound and awful, in the old sense of the word: the duty inspired awe.

At the hearse, the pallbearers moved as one to lift the coffin and slide it inside.  Kala was surprised by the weight of it; Martha had been a slight woman in her older years, and Ben had rejected the idea of an enormous, ostentatious casket.  “That isn’t her style,” he’d said to the funeral director, who had tried only once to up-sell them.  “Why, she’d probably come back just to scold me if I put her in something with gold-plated handles.  Martha wouldn’t see sense in spending money that could buy a car on something we’ll only use one time, and she’ll never see.”

The funeral procession was one of the longest Smallville had ever seen, traffic through town completely vanishing as all the vehicles followed the hearse.  When they arrived at the cemetery, the funeral home’s rolling cart wasn’t working properly.  “We’ll carry her,” Clark said, his voice low and rough with unshed tears.  Without further ado, they lifted the casket and crossed the sparse ground to the gravesite.  Kala knew that her brother and father were taking more of the weight than they needed, sparing the rest.  But she was glad they let her lift, too, let her share some of the burden.  That was what this duty was truly about, sharing the weight of grief.

The graveside service was brief, and Kala didn’t remember most of it.  She was holding Jason’s hand on one side, Sebast taking her other hand.  It was a beautiful day, sunny but not hot enough to wilt the flowers beside the grave.  All of them paid their last respects, and the family stayed while the rest of the mourners left.  All of them were holding hands, supporting each other. 

Ben spoke quietly, and Kala couldn’t tell if he was talking to the rest of them or to Martha at first.  “I don’t fear death,” he said.  “Neither did she.  We’ve lived good long lives, and I’ll go to my rest gladly when it’s my time, same as she did.  And I’ll go knowing that I helped leave the world a little better than I found it, because I had a hand in making this family.  Nothing on this earth is more precious than the love we share.  Martha wouldn’t want to me mope around, she’d want me to keep on.  And she’d want me to tell you all that I’m grateful to have been part of your lives.”

“Amen,” said his younger son, but Ben was looking directly at Clark when he said the last part.  Kala caught his gaze, and he tipped her the barest flicker of a wink.  So Ben knows, she thought distractedly, remembering Jason’s whispered news that Dad had flown out here when he got the call.  Kala didn’t have the energy to get worked up over it.  If anyone deserved to know the truth, Ben did.

“Ben,” Mom began, her voice faltering.

He only smiled.  “You don’t have to explain anything to me, Lois.  Here and now, we’re together as a family, and that’s as she wanted it.  I’ll see to it this family continues to stay strong together long after I’ve gone to join her.”

 

I'm fifteen for a moment,
Caught in between ten and twenty
And I'm just dreaming
Counting the ways to where you are.


I'm twenty two for a moment,
She feels better than ever
And we're on fire,
Making our way back from Mars.


Fifteen, there's still time for you.
Time to buy and time to lose.
Fifteen, there's never a wish better than this
When you only got hundred years to live.


I'm thirty three for a moment,
Still the man, but you see I'm a ‘they’.
A kid on the way,
A family on my mind.


I'm forty five for a moment,
The sea is high
And I'm heading into a crisis,
Chasing the years of my life.


Fifteen, there's still time for you.
Time to buy, time to lose yourself
Within a morning star .
Fifteen, I'm all right with you.
Fifteen, there's never a wish better than this
When you only got a hundred years to live.


Half time goes by,
Suddenly you're wise.
Another blink of an eye,
Sixty seven is gone.
The sun is getting high,
We're moving on.


I'm ninety nine for a moment,
Dying for just another moment,
And I'm just dreaming
Counting the ways to where you are.


Fifteen, there's still time for you.
Twenty-two,  I feel her, too.
Thirty-three, you're on your way,
Every day's a new day.


Fifteen, there's still time for you.
Time to buy and time to choose.
Hey fifteen, there's never a wish better than this
When you only got hundred years to live…

 

~Five for Fighting, 1oo Years



 
 
On the Verge of: numbnumb
 
 
 
saavikam77: Clark Tearssaavikam77 on May 5th, 2012 04:32 pm (UTC)
Dear gods. ;_; You guys have KILLED me with this one. I mean, waterworks over here. D:

*hugs you both so hard*

*applauds wildly and sniffles*
Lois: LS-Verse :: Lois Jason :: Never Doubt Lokalalanekent on May 5th, 2012 06:16 pm (UTC)
Awww, honey! *smishes you*

A lot of it, and trust me when I say there have been tearful arguments over here about it, is that you have to stand back and look at Martha's age in STM. If you want to be really kind, look at her age in SR. Then stop to think that her grandchildren are almost in their twenties here. Both actresses are nearly in their nineties. I loathe doing the math, especially since we NEVER talk ages with the older generation as time goes on, but it was going to happen. It had to happen.

And as painful as this chapter was to read is how painful it was to make the hard decision to do it. That said, I was determined to give the character the dignity that she didn't get in the films. That was always one of those things that upset me. We see her in the first and then don't hear from her again until Superman IV when she dies off-screen as a plot-point for a deleted scene where Lacey buys the damn farm and stays in Smallville.

Nope, not in my 'verse. Martha Kent is more than a goddamn footnote. She means so much to her son and her family as a whole. I never would have dreamed of writing this series without her. There's has been so much that she brought to everyone's lives in that world, especially to her grandkids. And she will be terribly missed, by all those who love her. Especially the authors.

And to think people didn't think we liked her back in LS. ;)

RIP, Martha. You made the world a lot brighter for all you touched and it was many. You've earned the rest. And Ell and Jonathan can't wait to see you.

Edited at 2012-05-05 06:17 pm (UTC)
saavikam77: Yellow Rosesaavikam77 on May 5th, 2012 06:22 pm (UTC)
Oh, I knew it had to happen sometime. I was just blown away by how beautifully you handled her passing. That it was peaceful and in her sleep was so perfect, and the way everyone came together for the wake and the funeral was just right. And I just *adored* that Kala was a pall bearer, with Lois and Lana being honorary pall bearers.

You really just did a wonderful job here, and you definitely showed how much you both love her character, through the beautiful tribute here.

So much love.

*hugs you both super-tight*