He walks through the door of the farmhouse kitchen, stooping a bit to clear the frame meant for a shorter generation, rubbing at the back of his neck in a sheepish gesture before he bends to give his mother a kiss. Martha Kent is seated, straight-backed, at the kitchen table wearing a faded lavendar wrap-around, porcelain mug cradled between her hands and she accepts his kiss with a gentle smile, nodding to the empty seat on his side of the table.
"I warmed an apple turnover for you," she tells him.
"Oh, I love those!" Clark exclaims, dropping into his seat and looking around to ascertain there are napkins before he helps himself.
"I know," she says indulgently. "So, Clark, tell me what's on your mind."
He pauses with the golden-buttery turnover mere seconds from devourment. "Um, why would anything necessarily be on my mind?" he replies, striving for innocence.
Silvery brows hoist. "Clark," Martha says, turning the name into a mild reproof. "Give me a little credit for a mother's perception, will you? When you walk in here as if you're trailing storm clouds after, with that particular crease between your brows, I know you're carrying the weight of something."
Clark ducks his head, wrapping his hands around the fragile cup of tea that was placed on a saucer for him. She's given him the perfect opening. He weighs her listening expression against the things he has to say, and recognizes that it may be the difference between shock and joy for one versus the other.
"Tell me you're not still pining for Lois," she prompts, a trace of worry flitting over her face.
"No! Oh, g-gosh no," he stutters, then fights a grin, and gives in. That more or less determines the order for him. "Actually..." He pauses. How best to present it? He still has guilt. Though Richard has reassured him more than a dozen times he was not the wedge or the last straw or whatever else could cause a relationship to unravel, Clark still sees the progression of Lois and Richard, from couple to separated, then Clark and Lois' former fiancé. Clark and Richard.
He still can't believe he's so lucky.
"Actually, I'm...um. Living with someone," he admits, and she smiles.
"See, was that so hard?" Martha asks, her eyes crinkling in a delighted look. She tilts her head. "So why do you look so worried, still?"
Clark swallows, turning the cup between his hands. "His name is Richard White," he says. Telling her about Jason will be easy after this admission.
"Oh," Martha says, and her pulse flutters in her throat. "Oh. Well. Clark, are you happy?" There's a touch of confusion now in the question, rendering it almost plaintive. She doesn't understand, he thinks, but still wants to ask the right things.
"I'm" -- he catches his breath here, action not necessary but long-imitated -- "Mom, I'm so happy."
A nod. Martha favors her teacup with an obscure, lingering glance. She makes him wait for so long that Clark has begun to listen for the pounding rush of everything beyond these four walls, the rustle of movement through corn stalks and a lone truck on the highway and all the heartbeats in Kansas and beyond, counting. "Well then," she says, and if her smile is a bit dry he can overlook it. Her eyes are clear and sincere. "That's wonderful, Clark. Tell me more about him?"
"Well," he replies, "in a bit." Now he really is apprehensive, and he'll tell her more if she's still speaking to him after the next thing. "I don't need to ask if you remember Lois."
Martha chuckles. "Not after sending postcards to the woman for five years with your name on them," she says. "I certainly had the address memorized."
He can't sit still for this one. Clark gets up, worried he'll break the tea-cup if he sits here and rolls it between his palms any longer. He paces the kitchen for a moment. "Before I left, we...she and I..." He halts on the threshold of the kitchen, clasping his hands together. Not even he and Lois, really. Lois and Superman. He adjourns to the living room, and he knows his mother is following him, anxiousness transmitted by the pace of her breathing, the rush of blood quickening. There are so many places that pause could go and he's sure she has intuited the most likely.
Clark drops to the sofa, leans on his knees, and even with his head in his hands he can't make it come out any other way than the gift he believes it to be. Not even here in the heart of Kansas. "There's a child," he says quietly. "My child."
A delicate hand lifts, and Martha covers her mouth, faded blue-green eyes fixed on him. "Oh," her mouth forms, and it's the only way to process it, these dual shocks he's handed to her. "Oh I think I need to sit down." She sinks into an armchair every bit as dazed as he anticipated.
That went well, he thinks concurrently with I could have broken that to her a bit better. Clark scrubs at his face then shoots a sheepish look in her direction. To avoid fidgeting, he grabs hold of a quilt beside him and unfolds it, tucking it over his knees, studying the patterns.
"Darling," she says blankly, "then why aren't you with Lois?"
"It's complicated," he replies, and he can't meet her eyes. "It's been five years, Mom. She got engaged to someone else. If I'd known...but I didn't. Now I'm back. And there's Jason. And I'm with Richard." He doesn't even want to bring forth the third shock - that Richard is the one to whom Lois was engaged. How can he?
How could he?
Before he can stop it, the quilt comes unraveled in his hands. He didn’t even think he'd been pulling that hard.
"I'm sorry," he says at once, automatic.
"It's all right," Martha says, soft.
"No, I - I'm sorry, it's one you made yourself, isn't it? I--"
"Clark," she says, a little louder. She's shaking her head, wearing a soft, slightly rueful smile. "It's all right."
He knows the next words before they come.
"I want to meet them."
Tentative, his slow-blooming smile matches her own.