A/N: I had multiple people comment lamenting the death of the Kents' baby, and I, too, just really wanted to write Clark and Lex as adorable older brothers who dote all over their tiny sibling. I'm not sure if this is what people had in mind, but, well . . . here it goes.
This is a companion to If She Looked Over, so if you haven't read from that universe, just assume the Kents have essentially adopted Lex.
"How warm is it supposed to be?"
"Like, warm, but not too warm."
"That's very helpful, Clark. I haven't done this since I was twelve, you know."
"I've never done this."
Martha rolled her eyes and laughed to herself as she stepped down the stairs into the dining room. Clark sat at the kitchen table, holding baby Elia in his arms and lightly running his hand over her fluffy white blanket. Lex stood in the kitchen, hand on the countertop, frowning at the label on a container of powdered baby formula.
"Mom!" Clark looked up at her from where he was sitting. "You're supposed to be taking a nap."
She squeezed his shoulder and leaned down to fix Elia's blanket—one tiny foot was sticking out. The biggest toe was smaller than her littlest fingertip. She smiled, then straightened up and glared at her sons. "You boys let me sleep for two hours."
Lex glanced up from the formula container. "We were hoping for at least three." He squinted at the label again. "Um, Clark, do you know where the kitchen thermometer is?"
Martha headed into the kitchen. She couldn't help but feel like she was forgetting something, but she'd felt that way since Elia was born. Since before, actually—the pregnancy had taken its toll, more than she was expecting. "Let me help you."
"No." Lex held his hand out. "You're supposed to be resting."
She was tired. More tired than she had been in a long time. But these hours, these days, were precious, and she didn't want to miss any more than she had to. "I'm fine, sweetie, you two let me get more rest than I ever did when Clark was a toddler." She picked up the bottle and walked over to the sink. "Tap water is fine."
"I don't want it to be fine, I want her to be happy."
"Elia doesn't care if it's lukewarm."
"Okay, but how can you tell that she doesn't care? I read a study about the correlations between—"
"We can microwave it, if you're that worried."
"No, we're not supposed to microwave it. It can heat unevenly and burn her." He frowned. "I guess we could just shake it so the temperature evens out."
"Lex," she warned, "what did we talk about? About worrying?"
"But this is important, I read—"
She gave him a look.
" . . . That maternal instinct is best . . . I'm sure lukewarm is fine, if you say so."
Martha had never seen Lex like this until the baby was born. He was acting more like a first-time parent than she and Jonathan were. His constant worry could be overwhelming at times, but it was endearing, and he made up for any mental strain he caused her with the sheer amount of extra work he was doing around the house. She set the bottle down on the counter and put her arms around Lex instead. "What would I do without my boys?"
Lex hugged back and kissed her on the side of the head. "Set a world record for longest time without sleep?"
She let go and gave him a light whack on the shoulder—he chuckled and took the bottle, continuing to prepare the formula. "Dad says we're supposed to make sure you rest."
"Okay, okay. Can I rest on the couch with my daughter?"
He raised his eyebrows. "Fine. But no getting up. If you need something, ask us, and we'll bring it to you."
She walked over to Clark. "Can I take her?"
Clark smiled and nodded. His approach to being an older brother had been a little less manic, but he was probably Elia's favorite. Elia loved Martha, and she seemed to like Jonathan and Lex, but she adored Clark. He was obviously crazy about her, too, though he showed it very differently from Lex. Clark could sit on the couch for hours holding her while she slept. He held her more tenderly than the rest of them, as though he was never quite sure of his strength.
Martha took her daughter into her arms, and the baby's eyes opened, her long, dark eyelashes fluttering over bright blue eyes. Jonathan's eyes. Martha believed—hoped, somewhat—that Elia would come to look like both of them as she aged, but right now, she looked like Jonathan. She was so beautiful it made Martha's chest hurt.
As Martha sat down on the couch, the nagging in the back of her mind grew stronger. She knew she was forgetting something. Something important . . .
Well, it couldn't be more important than this. Martha stroked Elia's impossibly soft, round cheek. Lex handed her the bottle, and she held it up to Elia's lips. The baby sucked at it happily, keeping her eyes wide open and fixed on Martha.
Jonathan came in through the side door just then. "Clark, could you give me a hand with—" He stopped short when his eyes fell on Martha. "You, my dear lady, are supposed to be resting."
"That's what I told her," Lex called from the sink.
"I'm fine, Jonathan." She laughed, holding Elia closer and feeling the baby tuck in closer to her as well. "I'm recovered. It's been a month since I went through labor." Which she barely remembered—the hospital staff must have put her on some pretty strong drugs. Or maybe Lex had sent in specialists. That sounded like something he would do, but it was all fuzzy in her mind. Did that have to do with what she was forgetting?
"Sweetheart," Jonathan said, "you were up most of the night with her, you can barely keep your eyes open. Why don't you let Lex take the baby? You go lie down."
She breathed in to argue, but found herself yawning instead.
Jonathan smiled, leaned down to kiss Martha on the lips and Elia on the forehead, and straightened up. "I'll be back in a couple of hours. Clark, I need you out in the barn."
"Yes, sir." Clark followed him out of the house.
Martha couldn't wait until Elia was old enough to toddle around the farm, and for Jonathan to introduce her to all the animals and start teaching her how to help with chores. She would love that. Clark had loved helping Jonathan when he was little.
Lex gave Martha an I-told-you-so look as he entered the living room and held out his arms. Martha sighed and handed over Elia, who whimpered when the bottle was taken away for a moment in transition, but sighed contentedly when Lex sat down on the rocking chair. Lex held her delicately, his motions unsure, but when her tiny hand crept its way out of the blanket and latched onto his finger, he positively melted. The look on his face left no doubt of that.
Martha couldn't possibly miss a moment more of this. "I'm going to lie down on the couch here. That way I won't have to keep running up and down the stairs every time I need to do something."
"Okay," he said, glancing up briefly from Elia. "But rest."
She smiled and eased herself down, pulling the decorative pillow under her head.
Lex's soft cadence washed over her as he spoke to his little sister. "You're lucky, you know. You have the best parents in the whole world. I should know. You've also got the most amazing big brother—"
"Two big brothers," Martha corrected.
"And your mom can apparently talk in her sleep," Lex said.
Martha smiled to herself. She loved the way Lex always talked to Elia when he held her. The rest of them raised the pitch of their voices a little when they spoke to her, but Lex didn't; if anything, he lowered it, simply softening his tone, and he never stopped talking to her when she was in his arms. It didn't seem to mean much to Elia now, but Martha knew she'd appreciate it when she was a little older, old enough to want to be taken seriously. Even as a kindergartener, she'd feel like Lex was respecting her and treating her like she was grown-up.
Clark was Elia's favorite now; Jonathan would be her favorite through her toddler years; Lex would probably be her favorite in elementary school, even if he'd moved out by then. And Martha would get her chance when Elia was a teenager, when her brothers and father became more fiercely protective while Martha herself remained understanding and gentle.
Martha tried to relax into the couch, simply enjoying the time while looking forward to all that was to come for her not-so-little family, but she couldn't. The nagging in her mind had started up again. She was definitely forgetting something. Something very, very important.
She was drifting off, but it didn't feel like she was getting closer to sleep. If anything, she actually felt like she was drifting into being awake . . .
She blinked, and it was dark. Blinked again, and realized she wasn't on the couch. She was in her own bed, and Jonathan laid beside her, snoring lightly.
And Martha suddenly remembered what she had forgotten.
She grasped to hold onto the incredible elation she had held just a moment ago, but it was no use. The truth cut through her, all the way to the core. It had been two months since the day when she had lost all three of them.
Had an ice dagger pierced suddenly into her chest, she could not have felt more pain. Martha rolled onto her stomach and buried her face in her pillow, and a screaming sob tore through her.
A startled rustling sounded beside her. "Martha? Martha!"
Her body was caving in on itself. She wondered if this was what a heart attack felt like. She couldn't possibly cry hard enough to ease the agony.
"Okay, okay." Jonathan started rubbing her back over her nightgown, his warm, firm hand tracing little circles between her shoulder blades. "Which one, sweetheart?"
"All three," she choked out. She'd been having dreams about her kids at least once a week since that terrible day, but usually it was only one of them at a time. And this was the first time her dream had robbed all memories of losing them.
A soft click, and harsh light filled her peripheral vision. Jonathan's arm slid under her, pulling her away from the pillow and to his chest.
She clung to him, pressing her face into his shoulder, her weeping still coming in as loud cries. "They're . . . they're all gone . . ."
"I know." His strong arms pulled her closer. "Just try to breathe."
"I—I can't . . ." Her throat caught every time she tried to pull in air. She felt like she was suffocating, but also like she still needed to cry harder.
He reached for the phone. "Martha, I'm going to call 911."
"No. We c-can't afford-d the . . . the h-h-hospital bill. We'll lose the farm."
"I don't care, baby—"
"They can't help!"
"You're barely breathing!"
"I can—I can breathe—" She forced her eyes open, making herself keep her eyes fixed on her husband's face, and took a careful breath in, counting in her head.
In. Two. Three. Four.
Out. Two. Three. Four.
Her whole body shook violently, but her lungs began to cooperate on the third cycle. She sat up a little straighter in Jonathan's arms and pressed her forehead against his.
His hands cupped her cheeks, and he held her a few inches away. His piercing blue eyes looked deep into hers. "Clark's going to come home, sweetie," he said.
She nodded. They'd had to hold onto that belief to stay sane, even if the belief itself probably wasn't sane.
"And the search parties haven't given up on Lex."
A fresh set of tears fell. She'd lost hope for her older son, but if Jonathan was still holding onto it, she wouldn't take that away from him. "I know."
He took a deep breath. "You're sure you don't want to try for another baby?"
"I—I've had . . . four now." Her voice came out as barely a whisper. She couldn't handle the possibility of a fifth miscarriage. With that thought, tears streamed down her cheeks again, and she collapsed back into his arms. "We've lost everything, Jonathan."
He gripped her tighter than before. "Oh, my love." His voice broke, and his chest shook. "Oh God, please, please . . . help us . . . help my wife . . . bring our boys back . . . Please . . ." Cool tears dripped into her hair.
A dim spark of warmth flickered within her, and something loosened a little in her chest. Something about sharing the grief with him made it almost bearable for her, and something about his faith lightened the weight on her soul. She'd said they'd lost everything, but they hadn't. Not quite.
She pulled away enough to look up into his eyes, and she wiped away his tears. He kissed her forehead, then her temple, then her cheek, then her lips, deeply.
"What do you need from me?" he asked. "Do you want to get up? Do you want to talk?"
"No, just . . ." She turned away from him, settled under the covers, and rested her head on the pillow. "Stay close."
He wrapped his arms around her from behind. The strength and solidity of his arms had never changed throughout the time they had been together. Even as his face aged and his hair grayed, his embrace remained the same. It reminded her that no matter what tomorrow brought, he would be there to face it with her. It didn't make the pain less, not exactly, but it made it possible to endure.
The warmth of his body against hers lulled her into a light sleep, and she dreamt no more.
A/N: I'm aware this is quite a lot of hurt with very little comfort, so in case you need to hear it . . . this one-shot fits somewhere between chapter 40 and 41 of "If She Looked Over," which means chapter 42 of ISLO is the one where Martha gets Lex back. Also, she gets Clark back almost exactly 5 minutes into 3x2, Phoenix—I never wrote out the scene, since it's canon. So if you missed the "Tragedy" genre on this story, you can go read/watch the resolution :)