Home is Where the Heart Is
Day 276, Thursday, 4:30PM, Metropolis, Daily Planet Newsroom
Perry White smiled proudly as he reviewed the mockup for the following morning's front page under Clark Kent's byline, yet more fruit produced by his and Lois' tireless pursuit of the Luthor story. The madman had regained his 'voice' two months ago, via an electronic tablet attached to his wheelchair, and orchestrated his lawyers brilliantly to unfreeze enough assets to fund a formidable defense team. They were challenging everything, attempting to either bar evidence or set the stage for an appeal.
Luthor's legal team had boldly protested their client's innocence, offering ludicrous alternate explanations for his crimes, proffered conspiracy theories that others were attempting to frame him, and attempted to shift blame to his subordinates. They even went so far as to claim that the New Krypton crystalline monstrosity grew from Superman's crashed spaceship, which must have landed in the ocean off of the New Jersey coast.
Perry pondered that Luthor's legal team never anticipated that Superman would react to that accusation as he had. The Man of Steel had presented his ship for inspection by law enforcement, and then used it to carry a team of forensic investigators on an expedition to New Krypton. He remained safely aboard with the Planet's Jimmy Olsen and Ron Thorpe while the forensic teams combed over the plateau where Luthor had attacked Superman. They recovered suitcases full of cash, blood evidence presumably from Superman, weapons, videotape of Luthor boasting of his plans, and even found Luthor's yacht, the Gertrude, in a valley several miles from the plateau, with revised maps in its ballroom charting out a new continent replacing the Americas. The evidence was remarkably well preserved for spending several months in space, though there was an unexplained gap in the video of Luthor's tirade against Superman in his 'interview' with Lois. The recording ended with Luthor waving a kryptonite cylinder in the air as he railed against Superman.
Tomorrow's front page story would be the indictment of Judge Peter Gregory on bribery charges. Lois and Clark had dug through his finances and identified a secret account held by the judge, which had two seven-figure deposits immediately before and after he overturned Luthor's conviction. The deposits were tracked back to accounts now known to be controlled by Luthor, thanks to the earlier exposé on the scoundrel's finances. They were even able to establish mob ties to the judge.
The editor peered through the glass wall into the newsroom, observing Clark Kent as he spoke casually with Jimmy Olsen, Ron Thorpe and Richard White. Richard had worked closely with Lois and Clark on many of the Luthor stories, and appeared to have made peace with the personal changes in their relationships. Even after losing Lois to Clark, the two men seemed to have bonded and become close friends. Perry had been worried initially, and was relieved that his newsroom wouldn't be reenacting The Jerry Springer Show any time soon.
The newsroom staff had been stunned upon learning of Lois' romantic history with Clark and that she'd left Richard for the shy man. Those revelations came while the couple was off work after Luthor's attack on Lois. Their first day back had been awkward and distracting. However, it had quickly become old news and the staff was now getting used to the idea that Lois was married to Clark Kent, rather than perpetually engaged to Richard.
Perry's expression turned serious as his thoughts focused on his nephew. He was grateful that Richard had been able to move on, and seemed to be genuinely happy in his new relationship. He'd been dating Maggie's sister, Christine, for several months now, and bonded with her son, Eric. Perry worried that Richard was moving too fast to replace Lois and Jason with Christine and Eric. Finally coming to a decision, Perry walked out into the bullpen and waved Richard into his office for a frank talk.
Day 279, Sunday,3:30PM, Metropolis, 1978 Donner Ct. (Home of Al and Maggie Gonzalez)
Richard White allowed a smile as he witnessed the excitement of the child before him. Al and Maggie Gonzalez' eight-year old son, Joey, was gleefully holding up a pair of ten dollar bills that had fallen from the birthday card he'd just ripped open. The boy had made out, with a variety of video games, clothing and other assorted gifts from his family, most of whom seemed to be present. Apparently, the Gonzalez family took little boys' birthdays seriously. They had made a similar spectacle at Eric Thomas' fourth birthday a couple months earlier, which he'd happily attended as his mother Christine's new beau.
Richard glanced down at Eric who, along with his cousins, was inspecting some of the presents that Joey had set aside while he went through the birthday cards. Eric had come a long way from the shy and withdrawn child still reeling from his incarcerated father's abuse. He saw no evidence of that now, as Eric happily chattered with his cousins as they debated which gift was the best one. Eric was still a bit wary of his male relatives, and got clingy in big crowds, but Richard was confident that he'd be able to put his ordeal behind him, much as Jason had all but forgotten Luthor's attack.
Richard's smile faded slightly as his thoughts turned to Jason. Lois and Clark had kept their word and allowed Richard to be a part of their son's life, which included weekend sleepovers and out-of-town vacations. Richard reflected on that change, noting that Christine and Eric were part of those visits now as well, which provided a warm sense of family that almost compensated for the loss he felt for the son that was no longer his. Are we really becoming a family already? Richard pondered. I've only known these two for five and half months.
Though both Richard and Christine had sworn to each other that they were going to take it slow, they quickly got to the point where virtually all of their free time was spent together, and Eric probably got tucked into bed in Jason's old room as often as he did in his own. Eric had already bonded with Richard, telling his mother that he wanted Richard for his new daddy. In fact, on nights that weren't spent at Richard's, the tyke insisted on calling him to say goodnight. Eric also found a best friend in Jason and was never as animated and talkative as when the two boys were together.
The drive home was unusually quiet, as Richard continued to reflect on his change in circumstances. Christine finally broke the silence, gently asking him, "Is everything all right? You've been a bit quiet today."
Richard sighed deeply as he glanced over to her. "I guess I kind of got lost in my thoughts," he admitted. "I couldn't help but reflect on everything that's happened over the last year… and how quickly things seemed to change."
Christine was silent for a moment, as she recalled what Richard had been through. Finally, she offered tentatively, "You kind of got the rug pulled out from under you, didn't you?"
Richard reached over and grabbed her hand, squeezing it affectionately as he looked over at her. "I just had this same conversation with my Uncle Perry a couple days ago," he informed her. "It turned out okay. It's just that a year ago, I never would have imagined that things would have turned out like they did. Sure, some of it was painful, but I think this is probably a better place to be than where I was a year ago."
Christine grinned at him and inquired, "How so?"
Richard ventured tentatively, "A year ago, I was blissfully ignorant. I think when Jason came along, Lois and I took the easy way out. We were together because it was comfortable, because we thought it was the right thing to do. Yes, I loved her, but it wasn't the same for her. I think that she tried to convince herself that it was love, but could never fully commit. She was still in love with her ex. And I was so blinded by love that I ignored some big warning flags, like her refusal to make wedding plans for years after accepting my proposal."
"It's different with us," Richard continued. "We have a… an 'informed' happiness. We are where we are because it's what we both knowingly want, not because we feel obligated or lonely. I think this is a more honest love than what I had with Lois."
"Are you trying to say that you love me?" Christine teased, smiling widely back at him.
Surprise briefly spread across Richard's features. He looked over at Christine with a broad smile. "I suppose I do," he admitted. "Though that kind of slipped out. I really hoped for a much more romantic way of expressing it when I finally said it."
"Well, it's not too late," Christine informed him softly.
Richard opened his mouth to speak but was interrupted by his cell phone. He pulled the phone off his belt and looked at the caller ID. "I wonder what Clark wants…" he muttered.
"Lois' baby could come any day now, remember?" Christine reminded him.
Richard's eyes grew large as he flipped open the phone. "This is Richard," he answered. "When…? Clark, relax… We'll meet you at the hospital and take Jason home with us… Well, you're not planning on taking him into the delivery room with you, are you…? No problem… I'll see you in a few. Bye."
"Let me guess, her water broke?" Christine suggested.
"Yep," Richard confirmed. "Which means I'll have Jason overnight, though he doesn't want to leave until the baby comes."
Day 282, Wednesday, 1:30AM, 1938 Sullivan Lane (The Kent Home)
Sam Lane couldn't sleep despite his exhaustion. He and Ella had driven in earlier in the day to see their new granddaughter and to help Lois with the baby. Rosa Eleanor Kent arrived late Sunday night, weighing in at seven pounds twelve ounces (3.5 Kg). Jason adored his little sister and marveled at her tiny features. Sam was equally smitten, though he'd never admit it. Jason was the first to call her "Rosie", and the name stuck.
The thoughts of his granddaughter were sufficient motivation for Sam to ease out of bed and quietly cross the hall to the nursery and observe Rosie in her sleep in the dim light of her night light. Such a little angel, Sam thought. Though he was sure he was the only one awake, he didn't want to risk being discovered staring adoringly at his granddaughter. Sam snuck downstairs, prepared himself a nightcap, and opened up the morning's Planet, which he hadn't read yet.
As Sam read the day's stories, he was surprised by noise from the kitchen, and spun around to see his son-in-law, still in his Superman garb, with a cloth diaper over his shoulder and a whimpering Rosie in his arms, tending to a pan of steaming water with a baby bottle in it.
"Wouldn't it be easier to use your heat vision on the bottle?" Sam whispered.
Superman looked over his shoulder at Sam, and quietly informed him, "The plastic bottles don't react well to direct heat." After retrieving the bottle from the pan, Clark walked into the living room and joined his father-in-law on the couch as he adjusted Rosie in his arms and offered her the bottle.
"I didn't think you were in yet," Sam commented. "Didn't hear her start to fuss either."
"Kryptonian baby monitor," was Clark's simple answer. "The receiver's in my belt. I heard her start to fuss, and rushed home to get her before she woke Lois up."
"When Lois and Lucy were little, Ella did all the midnight feedings," Sam confided. "It was a matter of anatomy."
"Well, as long as Lois gets enough pumped during the day, I can handle the midnight feedings," Clark declared. "Besides, Lois is grumpy enough in the morning when she gets her sleep. Would you want to face a sleep-deprived Lois in the morning?"
Sam snorted. "You have a point," he conceded. "You know, this is so surreal – sitting here watching Superman feeding his daughter."
Clark smiled at the statement. "I missed this the first time around," he stated quietly. "I missed so much with Jason. I never should have left."
"Why did you leave?" Sam asked gently. "Lois explained the thing with Jor-El's rules, but I never really understood why you went back to Krypton."
Clark was quiet for a minute as he considered his answer. Finally, he stated, "I suppose I was looking for home." At Sam's confused expression, Clark elaborated, "I've spent my entire life knowing that I was different, believing that this domestic tranquility just wasn't a possibility. After coming so close, and mistakenly believing that it couldn't be, I just… I was tired of being different, of being alone, and so I left on a fool's errand to search for my home."
"You found it," Sam noted.
"My mistake was in not understanding what 'home' really is," Clark declared. "Krypton was never home, not even for the brief time that I lived there. Neither was Smallville." He gestured to the room around them as he continued, "Even this isn't home, because 'home' isn't a place. It's a state of being. For me, home is wherever Lois and the kids are."
Sam was unable to suppress his smile as he gazed over at his granddaughter as Clark lifted her to his shoulder and gently began patting her back. "Home is where the heart is," Sam summarized.
Clark nodded in agreement, repeating quietly, "Home is where the heart is."
Author's Notes: Finally finished! Took along enough to get here. Again, many, many thanks to htbthomas, beta extraordinaire. Also, thanks to everyone who reviewed and encouraged me throughout this journey.