AN: A year ago after watching Superman Returns, I coined the term "Superman ate my brain" in reference to how I couldn't stop thinking about the story. Mostly that applied to just what Lois remembered about her love affair with Supes and also what was going to happen to Jason. This was the first piece of fan fic I wrote for the SR fandom, and I did it to try to get Superman out of my head. Obviously, that didn't work. I went on to write and write and write, mostly about Jason, creating an entire AU that goes on for years into the future. Now that I have a better feeling for these characters, I've decided to come back and rework this fic so that it fits in with my AU as it stands now. This would take place shortly after SR – before Being Jason White starts.
Breaking the Routine
It had become their silent routine – a game almost. A game with four players. Two players orchestrated and arranged the movements and actions of the other two, who were completely oblivious to the fact that anything was happening around them outside of the norm. It had started all on its own and had been continuing for weeks now. And it didn't look as if it would come to a stop any time soon.
Until tonight. Things would change tonight. Lois would see to it herself.
For several weeks now, she had routinely tucked Jason into bed around nine o'clock, making sure to leave his window open or unlocked, depending on the weather. She would make her way downstairs, pour two glasses of wine, and convince Richard to finish his work in the bedroom where they could curl up next to each other on the bed. Then she would sit and wait amongst the office files spread out on the bed and a lap top computer resting on her legs, with Richard next to her. If he tried to leave, she would distract him in some way. Usually all it took was for her to ask for advice on a story, but a few times she resorted to more…intimate means. She would do whatever it took to keep him occupied until she had the signal that the coast was clear.
It wasn't anything really noticeable. Just a flash of red and blue outside in the sky. She would see it. He always made sure that she would see it. See him. And then he would be gone just as subtly and as quietly as he had arrived.
And she would be left alone again. Never alone physically, because Richard was right beside her, but in her deepest of hearts she was aching for contact. She wanted to know his thoughts…his feelings. She wanted…everything.
There was so much to say that had never been said. And yet…how to broach the subject? For weeks now, she had waited for him to come to her and ask the necessary questions. God knew she had enough of them, surely he did, too. Didn't he want to know about Jason's birth? What he was like as a baby? His favorite foods…toys…games? He needed – no – he deserved to know Jason. Spending an hour in Jason's room while he slept did little to strengthen or even build the relationship between them.
But then, he had left her waiting before – left her with no explanation as to what had happened those few days all those years ago. The first time around, it had left her bitter and so angry she couldn't see straight. But now, she was almost used to it.
She had hoped that he would come to her on the roof of the Daily Planet, but two weeks of sneaking off for smoke breaks hadn't even garnered her one small glimpse of the Man of Steel. Typical. It was just like last time. Now, she had resorted to bribing and begging Clark Kent to watch Jason while she would dart off to the roof and wait for absolutely nothing to happen. Clark didn't seem to mind, though. And neither did Jason, for that matter. Only Lois would end up agitated at the fact that once again the man in the red cape was ignoring her.
At least he wasn't ignoring Jason.
But tonight that was all going to change. Richard had taken an assignment over seas and would be gone for the next few days. Tonight, there would be no one to distract. She didn't need to play their usual game of hide and seek, for there was nothing to hide. Tonight she would ask the questions, not as a reporter, but as a woman who desperately needed some explanations. The holes in her memory were too great to fill in on her own. Only one person had the ability to fill the void within her.
And that person was currently upstairs in her son's bedroom.
She watched Jason's window from the deck until she saw movement. Carefully and quietly, the man who haunted her dreams slipped out from the house and hovered in mid air just long enough to take one last look before flying away. It never ceased to amaze Lois that he was capable of such things, and even now, after all their history together, she couldn't take her eyes off of him as he slowly started to float away.
"You don't have to leave tonight," she said softly, knowing that he could hear her just as well as if she had shouted it.
His head turned so that he could look over his shoulder at her. "Good evening, Lois," he greeted kindly. The cadence of his voice was so masculine and yet soothing. She would recognize that voice anywhere.
"Richard's not here," she explained. "He's in the Orient on assignment. So, you don't have to leave. If you don't want to, that is," she added.
He floated to the ground, landing lightly on the deck and stepping towards her. "Of course I want to stay, but I'm not sure if that's entirely appropriate."
His blue eyes bore into her so intensely that she had to look away. "I wasn't suggesting anything more than just…conversation."
"Neither was I," he replied with laughter to his voice.
Her eyes met his and she took a deep breath, willing her nerves and her heart to calm down. "I only said that because the last time we were alone on the roof of the Daily Planet we very nearly had more than just a conversation."
His face instantly fell. "I know. I shouldn't have teased."
"I just—" she broke off, looking away again. "I have been waiting for you to come talk to me. There is so much I don't understand. Don't you have any questions for me?"
"I have questions, Lois," he said calmly, taking a step towards her. "But my being here any longer than necessary puts both you and Jason at risk. We have to be very discrete – very careful about how - "
Her anger flashed. "I've been discrete. I've made sure no one notices – not even Richard."
"Lois - "
"Don't tell me that I can't protect my own son. I've been protecting him for years now without your help."
He flinched, but she pressed on.
"I realize that you can't be here all the time, that if anyone ever found out, Jason would be in such danger. I think I understand that better than anyone. I am doing everything I can to protect him, even going so far as to lie to Richard."
"I know what you've done," he said quickly. "Lois, I have the utmost respect for what you have done for Jason – what you and Richard have both done. I never meant to imply that you have put him in any kind of danger."
"Then what did you mean?" she asked sharply.
He paused, and sighed deeply. "I am the one that puts Jason in danger. My presence here…Like you said, if anyone knew…" His words trailed off as he shook his head and looked down as if in defeat.
Lois waited for him to say more, but nothing came. "I can't keep doing this, you know. I can't keep living like this. I feel like I'm living a lie." She hated the way her voice shook as she spoke. "It's ironic, don't you think? You stand for truth and justice…and yet I find myself lying to everyone and feeling so cheated out of a life that could have been. It isn't fair."
He smiled at her, and she realized for the first time how very close they were to each other. So close that she could feel the warmth radiating off his body. "I didn't say this was fair, but it is what we have to do."
"Why?" she breathed.
"For Jason. For his safety – for his security."
She shrugged. "You think Jason is safer here with me, not knowing the truth, not knowing who he really is than he would be with you?"
"Yes," he answered without hesitation. "By being with me, he would become a target. That's probably why I was told…" Suddenly, his whole demeanor changed and he turned away from her. "I – I've broken the rules, Lois"
"When I was sent here, my father – my real father – provided me with an entire library full of information about him, my mother, my home. And with that information came a list of instructions." He hesitated a moment. "I was advised not to form any specific human attachments. No single human was ever supposed to be more important than any of the others. Every life is precious. Every life has value. For me to set one above the others…"
Slowly, he turned back around to face her, his eyes piercing her soul and sending a chill down her spine. Her heart thumped so rapidly in her chest she was sure he could hear it.
He stepped up to her and lightly brushed his hand over a stray lock of her hair, touching her as if she were some fragile piece of glass that might break. "No matter how much I have tried to resist, I can't fight how I feel."
Lois frowned and shook her head. "How could they ask that of you? What kind of parent sends their child off to live in a world full of passion, all the while forbidding him to ever experience it for himself?"
"I told you earlier – I never said it was fair, but it is the right thing to do."
"That's a load of crap!" she stormed away.
"Lois - "
"NO! You are allowed to have feelings. You're entitled to experience life to its fullest. You have a right to know love, to feel love, to be loved!"
"And I have." He said it with such authority that there was little doubt as to his full meaning.
His words were so simple, and yet they stopped her in her tracks. She had loved him –had made love to him. It was another confirmation of something she had no memory of. She had always wondered about Jason's paternity. Her due date never properly matched up to when she and Richard had started dating. Still, in her mind, Richard had been the only possibility since he was the only one she could remember being with intimately. But there were always doubts. Seeing Jason toss that piano was the first real sign that her suspicious were correct. She received further proof the first time Superman came to visit Jason in his sleep. He wouldn't have come to see Jason if her whispered words in the hospital room hadn't been true. They had been together, and from the way his eyes fell on her on now, she knew that his recollection of that event was perfectly clear.
She wet her lips and swallowed hard. This was what she wanted to know. This was what she needed to ask him. Yet she had no way to word it without sounding incredibly foolish.
Bravely, she looked into his glorious eyes and asked, "Will you at least tell me?"
He frowned. "Tell you what?"
"About…" She couldn't get her mouth to form the words. Embarrassed and blushing to the tips of her ears, she slumped down onto the steps of the deck and hid her face in her hands. "I've never admitted this to anyone, not even Richard. Especially not Richard," she corrected. "I don't know why…I usually have such an excellent memory. But I have…a gap." It was the way she had chosen to refer to the missing time of her life. A gap. A hole. A crater.
She felt movement beside her and then warmth - his warmth as he sat down next to her. She still didn't look at him, but for some reason, the words just came spilling out of her. "I remember being on an assignment in Niagara. And I remember you saving a little boy from the drowning in the Falls. The next thing I remember, I was sitting at my desk at the Planet without any knowledge of anything going on around me. The world had apparently been turned upside down, and yet I had no memory of it. I was told I had been involved, and I acted as if I knew what had happened. I read everything I could get my hands on. I studied pictures and news reports. I saw that I had been there. And yet all I could remember…were these flashes."
"Flashes?" his voice rumbled softly beside her.
"Images. A place full of light. Blinding almost." She turned and looked deeply into his clear, blue eyes. "And you…surrounded by nothing but white."
He nodded, adding to her list of confirmations.
"You were smiling," she said.
"I was happy. I don't think I've ever been so happy."
"Happy?" She cocked her head at him. "I suppose that's the polite way to describe it."
His face broke out into a wide grin. "How would you rather I describe it?"
"Well, any details would be welcome right about now."
"You really don't remember any of it?" he asked in all seriousness.
She shook her head. "I waited for you to come and see me, to explain what happened, but you never did. After a few weeks, I had managed to work up enough courage to try to contact you myself…but then you left."
There was a pause before he asked, "Did you know?"
She shook her head. "I told you, I didn't really remember any of it. That's why - "
"No," he stopped her, reaching out as if to touch her, but then pulling his hand away. "Did you know…that you were pregnant…when I left?"
Again, she shook her head. "The signs were all there, but I wasn't paying attention. I didn't realize. I was so confused over everything. My mind was full of these blank spaces. Everyone was asking me all these questions I didn't have answers for. And then you…were nowhere to be found." Her voice cracked, but she fought through it.
She felt him tense beside her. "I didn't know what to do," she admitted. "I was so confused. I didn't remember…I didn't know how it happened. When it happened. And I didn't know if it had been you…"
"I'm so sorry, Lois," he soothed, placing his hand over hers. "If I had known…"
She waited for him to finish, but he didn't. "What? What would you have done?"
"I'm not sure," he admitted, looking down into her face. "I don't know what I would have done, Lois, but I know I wouldn't have left you alone."
"But you did," she sighed, pulling away slightly.
He paused a moment and didn't contradict her in any way, letter her know that she was right and that he felt guilty for it. "What about Richard?" he asked after a while.
She exhaled deeply and turned to look at him. "Richard…the whole world wanted to know why you left, and it seemed logical that I would know. But I didn't, and Perry couldn't print that. So Richard and I were put together to cover your absence – to find answers to something that had no answers. We ended up having dinner together every night out of necessity. I could tell that he was attracted to me, and I knew he was a good man. He helped fill some of the void. He's never treated me with anything but respect and kindness and love. So, when I found out that I was pregnant…"
"I'm glad you had someone there for you," he said. "Richard is a very lucky man."
"Lucky?" she scoffed. "I've used him, deceived him, and although I do love him, there will always be… something between you and me. You'll always be Jason's father." Her eyes locked with his, and in that moment, time seemed to stall. She held her breath and waited, longing for him to move his face closer to hers. They had avoided this for too long, and in her opinion, the wait had come to an end.
"You realize," he said softly, and she could feel his breath on her face. "I could never give you a life like what you have with Richard. I could never devote my full attention to you – be a husband and father like Richard can."
That wasn't what she wanted to hear. "Doesn't it matter, though, that we once loved each other?" She wanted to say that she still loved him, but it worried her too much that he wouldn't echo the sentiment.
"It matters more than you'll ever know."
She dropped her gaze, feeling rejected and disappointed. "But things have changed. We've both moved on, I suppose. You left me, so I can only assume that you don't love—"
He wouldn't let her finish. "No, Lois, that's not true. I love you very much."
"Then why didn't you stay with me?"
"I couldn't." He shifted slightly so that he could look directly into her eyes. "What you don't remember about our time together was that for me to be with a human, I had to become a human. I had to give it all up, Lois. And I did, willingly."
Surprised, and wanting to make sure she understood correctly, she asked, "You gave up…your powers?"
"Yes," he said with a nod. "I gave them up for you. For that brief moment in time, everything was right, and it seemed as if we would be able to go on living a normal life together. But we didn't expect to come back here and find the world in such a catastrophe."
"Zod?" she asked.
He squinted at her. "Do you remember him?"
"No, but I read all about it." She bit at her lip for a moment. "So, you went back and had your powers restored?"
He gave a half-hearted smile. "Lois, regardless of how much I wanted a life with you, what kind of life would that have been if I hadn't done anything to stop Zod? What kind of world would we be living in today? I had no choice but to stop him, and in making that choice, I had to give up the only thing I have ever asked for myself." He paused, taking hold of both of her hands in his. "I had to give up you."
Slowly, as if all her energy had left her, she slumped over and rested her head against his shoulder. His strong arms encircled her, cradling her against his side. She felt his lips in her hair as he kissed the top of her head, lingering a bit longer than he probably should have, but not long enough for her to be fully satisfied.
She leaned back and met his eyes, gazing up at him and hoping for more. His face was close. His nose was next to hers. Her eyes fluttered closed and she felt the soft, tender brush of a kiss against her cheek, very close to her mouth. It wasn't enough, but it was all she could ever have.
With a sigh, he stood up reached out for her hand so that he could help her to her feet. "I don't want you to go," she murmured.
"I have to." He stroked the side of her face, brushing her hair back so that he could touch the pale skin of her neck.
"And Jason? Will you come and see him during the day? Please?"
"I will," he promised. "But Lois, believe me when I say that I see more of Jason than you know."
"Yes, but he doesn't see you."
He smiled that knowing smile that made her heart flutter. "Yes, he does. I told you, I'm always around."
He pushed off the ground and shot up into the sky. "Good night, Lois."
"Goodbye, Superman!" a small voice called out into the night. Lois twirled around to see Jason standing at his window waving happily.
"Hey, you," she called up to him. "You should be in bed!"
"I know. I just wanted to say goodbye to him. He never waits long enough for me to say goodbye."
Not quite believing what he had said, she asked, "Jason?"
"Can he stay longer tomorrow night?"
"And what makes you think he'll be here tomorrow night?"
The little boy smiled down at his mother – the same smile that Lois had seem moments ago on another man's face. "He's here every night, Mom. It's…routine."
"Yes," she agreed. "Yes it is."