By Terry Leatherwood <email@example.com>
Submitted July 2007
Summary: Kansas might never be the same for some people after Jason Trask's insanity invaded Smallville. Martha Kent helps Rachel Harris face the aftermath, and in so doing helps herself.
This story takes place immediately after "The Green Green Glow of Home" and explores some of the aftermath of that incident.
Martha Kent closed the scrapbook and sighed. It was the first story she'd clipped and saved which didn't feature Clark as either author or co-author, but the hug Lois had given Clark after that horrible Mr. Trask had slid under the surface of the pond had convinced her that not only was Lois more to Clark than just a friend, Clark was more than just a friend to Lois. In fact, as far as Martha was concerned, she was as close to being family as could be without actually marrying him. And the story certainly concerned Clark. Besides, Lois was, in her own way, just as talented a writer as was Clark.
The memory of that hug was linked to another good memory, when Martha had set up separate sleeping arrangements for her son and his co-worker, then had hinted that the pair might also be a couple who didn't need separate sleeping arrangements. Their protestations of non-involvement had been made even funnier by their assumption that Martha's question was innocent and that their resulting consternation was accidental.
Jonathan, of course, had called her on it later that evening. But his accusation that she was meddling in affairs not her own had been softened by his futile attempts to muffle his own laughter.
Her smile faded as more memories cascaded into her mind. Wayne Irig's injuries, Clark's first encounter with the glowing green crystal which had caused him so much pain, the terrifying threat from that awful Mr. Trask —
Trask. The man who had tried to burn them alive. The man who had tried to kill Clark. The man who would have succeeded in killing all of them if Sheriff Rachel Harris hadn't shot him, at literally the last possible moment.
Martha shivered and wished that Jonathan was already home from the Irig farm. Even though the corn harvest was finished, there was still lots of work to do on any farm. Wayne was a friend who needed help doing that kind of work, and would need a good deal of help until his hands healed, so Jonathan was helping him. And despite his insistence that they were more than even and that friends didn't owe friends anything, she agreed with Jonathan that they owed Wayne big time for what they'd inadvertently put him through.
But she needed her husband too. She needed him when the nightmares Clark would never hear about yanked her from sleep to panicked awareness. She needed him when the house creaked and she imagined that Trask's men were back to finish the job begun by a madman. She needed him when she thought about watching Trask's face — wearing an expression of stunned surprise — slip softly beneath the water in their stock pond.
She was abruptly seized by an irrational and perverse need to make sure that Trask was actually gone, that the coroner's van had really hauled the body away, that he wasn't lurking just below the surface with a green meteorite in one hand and a pistol in the other —
Stop it! she chided herself. The man is dead! You saw him take a bullet and slide out of sight in the pond! You watched them load his body in the ambulance and take him away!
Still, she reasoned to herself, it wouldn't hurt to double-check. Just to be certain.
With that little bit of rationalization, she pushed through the screen door and looked at the pond. Sure enough, it was flat and calm. No bodies floating near the stone on the far side, no madmen slipping through the water. Just peaceful water, quiet green plants, a pair of blue jays pecking for bugs at the edge of the grass, Rachel sitting on the hood of her patrol car —
Martha looked again. Yes, it was Sheriff Rachel Harris, out of uniform. She wore jeans and sneakers and a worn blue flannel shirt two sizes too large for her. Probably her father's, thought Martha. She sat rock-still on the car, staring at the pond as if trying to divine the essential mystery of the universe.
"Rachel?" Martha called softly. There was no response, so she called again. "Rachel? Honey? Are you all right?"
Without turning her head, Rachel tucked her knees up under her chin and wrapped her arms around her legs. This, thought Martha, was not a good thing.
She walked slowly towards the younger woman, being careful to stay within her line of sight and not appear to be sneaking up on her. Martha placed a gentle hand on Rachel's shoulder.
The girl sniffed once without turning her head. "They took my gun."
Martha silently patted the younger woman's shoulder. Rachel rubbed her nose with one hand and said, "Took my badge, too."
Martha stepped closer. "I'm sure they'll give them back to you when the investigation is finished. You did the only thing you could do. They'll realize it soon enough."
Rachel glanced at Martha, then resumed her contemplation of the pond. "My dad spent six years as an Air Force security officer after he left high school. When he got out of the military, he worked for the Kansas Highway Patrol for eight years. Then he joined the sheriff's department as a deputy for six years, then retired as county sheriff after twenty-four years of service."
She stopped and wiped her eyes with one hand. "In all that time, my father never once discharged his weapon in the field. He drew it a few times, but he never fired it." She sobbed once. "I'm sheriff for less than three years and I — I kill a man the first time I pull it out of the holster on the job."
Martha leaned closer and put her arm around Rachel's shoulders. "You saved my son's life. I'll never be anything but grateful to you for that." She kissed the girl's hair. "I will always be thankful that you were there for him."
Rachel shook her head sharply. "No! I screwed up! I should have done something different! I should have gotten here sooner! I should have fired a warning shot! I should have yelled at him, distracted him somehow —-"
Martha hugged her close. "Shh! You did what you were supposed to do. You protected the innocent. That man was convinced that Clark was some alien menace and he was going to shoot my son. If you had done anything else, Clark would be — would be dead." Martha paused to wipe away a tear. "And I'd be standing here, wishing that you'd shot Trask and saved Clark."
"Oh, yeah!" Rachel burst out. "I saved him! I saved him for — for her!"
"Did you see her?" Rachel demanded. "Did you see the way she wrapped herself around him? She acted like she cared about him or something!" She lurched off the hood of the car and walked closer to the pond. "I stood right here, right about here, and I saw Tr- I saw that man go under the water. And I saw — her — grab Clark and hug him like she really meant it! And you know what?" She spun to face Martha. "She never thanked me for saving his life! Oh, Clark thanked me, told me he knew now hard it had been for me to do what I'd done, then he held my hands close and told me to be strong, but she never said a word to me! She never thanked me, never told me she was glad Clark was okay, never apologized for taking him away from —"
Rachel suddenly seemed to realize what she was saying and clamped her jaws together. She tried to stalk past Martha to the driver's door of her car, but the older woman held her back with gentle force on her arm.
"Rachel Anne Harris, you stop right there." Martha waited until she was sure she would be obeyed. "Clark does not know how you feel about him. He has no idea that you're tearing yourself up over him, or how much it hurt you when he embraced Lois instead of you."
Martha slowly turned the younger woman to face her. "But that's because you've never told him how you feel. You can't expect Clark to read your mind, or to simply pluck that knowledge out of thin air. You have to make a move if you want something." She paused. "Or someone."
The tension drained from Rachel's body and she dropped her chin to her chest. "Make a move, huh?"
"Someone needs to."
Rachel nodded. "You think I still got a shot?" Martha smiled sadly but didn't answer. Rachel sighed. "Never mind. I didn't think so anyway."
Martha released Rachel's elbow. "I'm sorry. But Clark's head over heels in love with Lois."
"You think she feels the same way about him?"
"I think it's a strong possibility, yes."
Rachel sighed again. "I guess it don't matter all that much. I may not be around here much longer anyhow."
"What? What are you talking about?"
Rachel crossed her arms and leaned against the car. "That state investigation into the shooting is still going on. I might not be county sheriff this time next week."
"But that's — that's ridiculous! You had no choice! You had to do what you did! That's what I told the people from the state board, and I'm sure that everyone else said the same thing!"
Rachel turned to look at the pond again. "The man I shot was a Federal man. The state of Kansas don't like its local cops killin' Federal guys, even if the victim was totally nuts and it was a righteous shooting. And even if they don't arrest me or just run me off, I'm think' about quittin' anyway."
"What? What did you say?"
Rachel hunched her shoulders. "I'm thinkin' about quittin'. Maybe I'm not cut out to be a law enforcement official."
"But you earned your degree in record time! And no one is even thinking about running against you in the next election! Besides, what would you do?"
"Dunno." She scraped one boot on the hard ground. "I could go back to school, maybe study law, or if that's too expensive maybe I'll just marry Benny Gordon. He's asked me to marry him at least two, three times in the past year."
"That's silly! Benny's a nice young man, but he's all wrong for you! And what would you do, work at his car dealership selling cars?"
"I don't know! I just don't think I could still be sheriff."
Martha took a deep breath and blew it out between her teeth. "And I know that you can be a wonderful sheriff."
The younger woman shook her head and crossed her arms. "That's a minority opinion. And I think I've made up my mind. I'm gonna quit."
The abrupt statement snapped the young sheriff's attention around. "What?"
Martha put her hands on Rachel's shoulders and turned the girl to face her. "Rachel, you can't quit, not like this. This is your life! This is what you've dreamed of doing since you were fourteen. It's what you've studied for, worked for, sacrificed for. You can't just walk away."
Rachel shook her head slowly. "I killed somebody. That ain't protectin' and servin', that's just wrong."
"It's only wrong if you treat it as your first option. You didn't. You did everything you could to avoid pulling that trigger. Trask is the one who's to blame for this situation, not you."
"Listen to me." Martha squeezed the other woman's shoulders lightly. "You protected those who couldn't protect themselves, you served the people of this community, and you fulfilled your oath as a peace officer. You are a tremendous asset to everyone in Smallville." She hugged Rachel again. "And you saved my family's lives. Oh, Rachel, we still need you. Please don't go."
Slowly, the younger woman's arms rose to complete the embrace. "Martha, I don't —"
"Please. Please don't make any decisions right now. Give it a while. Until Thanksgiving, at least." She pulled back and grasped Rachel's shoulders again. "Will you? Wait, I mean. If not for yourself, then for me?"
Rachel smiled thinly and nodded once. "Fine. Assumin' the state don't run me off and the department shrink don't send me to the nut house, I won't decide anything permanent before Thanksgiving." She blew a breath out through her nose. "You know, you're a lot tougher than you look, lady."
"I'm a farmer's wife and the mother of an exceptional son. I have to be tougher than I look." She cupped Rachel's face with her hands. "Thank you for listening to me."
Rachel rolled her eyes like a teenager. "Like I had any choice." Martha tilted her head and smiled at her. "Okay, okay! You're welcome."
Martha patted her cheek and turned back towards the kitchen, then stopped. "Rachel, you're welcome to stay for dinner if you like. I'm sure Jonathan would be thrilled to see you."
Rachel shoved her hands into the pockets of her jeans. "Thanks, Martha. But —" she glanced at the pond again "— I got some serious thinkin' to do, and I need to be alone to do most of it."
"Of course. Don't be a stranger, you hear? Come see us any time."
"Thanks. Sorry, but I gotta get going. My dad's expecting me to come by and mow his front yard for him. He says his arthritis has been acting up, but I think he just wants to talk to me." She shrugged again. "Probably wants to tell me the same things you just did."
"Your father is a wise man. Listen to him."
"I will, I promise."
"All right. Tell him we said 'hi.' And tell him he's overdue for a visit."
"I'll tell him. Thank you, Martha."
She watched the younger woman drive away and hoped that Rachel would be able to bear up under her burden without surrendering to her fears. She also hoped that Rachel would decide to continue as sheriff. It would be a shame if Trask won a victory over her from beyond the grave.
For that matter, it would be a shame if that evil man won any victories from the grave.
She squared her shoulders and marched back into her house.
Her house. Hers and her husband's. And she would refuse to be afraid there any longer.
Trask would not win a posthumous victory over Martha Kent, either. She set about straightening up the living room and then started dinner for herself and her husband. And when the expanding kitchen wall creaked from the heat of the stove, she didn't give it a second thought.