Time Doesn't Heal
By Dandello AKA SHADO Librarian
Submitted 9/2006. Edited 11/13/2006
The usual disclaimers apply, as always. I don't own any of them, but I do borrow freely and I don't always put them back where they belong.
Note: This story involves the suicide death of a major character and not for the queasy. If this subject matter offends, please go no further.
A/N: This has been rewritten again to include what happened to Superman after Lois's death in an alternate of And The Answer Is . . .
For the first day in nearly a year, since Lois Lane's death in fact, Clark Kent actually smiled at Jimmy's cheery greeting when he came into the office carrying a cardboard box. And this was a first day in nearly a year that Clark wasn't dressed all in black. He'd chosen a gray suit and blue shirt instead.
Perry White, managing editor of the Daily Planet, noted the fact and felt a load ease off his shoulders, a load he hadn't been fully aware of until now. Later, he would realize he should have known better. He should have trusted his experience, known that something was still wrong with the prize-winning reporter.
For nearly a year, Clark had dutifully come into work, taken the assignments given to him, turned in flawless copy, and went home at the end of the day. But there had been no life there, no spark, no satisfaction at a job well done. He didn't socialize outside of the nearly mandatory office get-togethers and begged off early from those. Perry doubted he went to church, even though it might have helped. He knew that, as far as Clark was concerned, God had failed him even more than Superman had. Perry, Jimmy, and everyone else in the newsroom knew that part of Clark Kent had died the day Superman had failed to save Lois Lane's life. Since that day, Clark refused to even say his name.
There had been no exclusive interviews with Superman since that day. In fact, there had been no interviews at all. Before, Clark and Lois had been Superman's primary press contacts. But after Lois died, Superman had not given a single interview to the press and rarely said more than two words to the police or firefighters he was aiding. There were times the emergency workers even worried about the superhero – he seemed reckless with his own safety, especially when kryptonite was involved, driving himself to exhaustion.
There were times, especially in the days immediately following her death, that emergency workers found Superman in tears after a failed rescue, especially if a woman or child was involved. Perry White made it a policy that the Planet did not print these incidents and pressured the other Metropolis papers into not printing them as well – it wouldn't do to show Superman grieving so openly. It wouldn't do to show Superman as a broken man. Eventually emergency workers didn't report these incidents to anyone but each other, and occasionally, Perry White. They wanted him to know they were worried about the big guy.
Perry had cut Clark a lot of slack in the past year. He'd tried partnering Clark with various other reporters, including Jimmy Olsen, but none of the pairings had worked out. Clark refused to open up to anyone, indicating in various subtle and not so subtle ways that he was not ready to have anyone fill in for his late partner.
Sunday was the anniversary of Lois's death, when Jason Mazik had forced Superman to present her dead body to him to save Clark Kent's parents. A year since Superman had frozen the reporter at her demand with his supercold breath. A year since he couldn't revive her and she died.
It was public record that Superman had confessed, waived all rights to a jury trial and been sentenced for involuntary manslaughter. Despite a lack of cooperation from the superhero, Perry convinced the judge to be lenient. Superman was sentenced to probation and ordered to continue his rescues.
It had been a year in hell for everyone who knew Lois Lane, especially for her partner, and for Superman.
"This is very good," Perry complemented Clark on his most recent article, tying up an investigation into pharmacy fraud.
Clark smiled, a rare thing these days. "Thanks chief."
"Could be Kerth winner," Perry told him. Clark's smile faltered. "I know it won't be the same without Lois there, but you're the best investigative reporter I've got. Just remember that time does heal."
"I know, chief," Clark said. "I'm starting to get better. And thanks for being so patient with me. I know it hasn't been easy for anybody around here." Clark reached into the box he'd put under his desk and pulled out several CDs. "I thought you might like these. They've been re-mastering old recordings off the original tapes and I guess they found some Elvis cuts they didn't even know they had." He handed the CDs to Perry, who looked at him in pleased bewilderment.
"Thanks, son. I didn't know these were out yet."
Clark beamed at him. "Enjoy chief. I think I'll head home, if you don't mind."
"Are you going to be okay?" Perry asked. Something was tickling at the back of his mind. They'd been worried about Clark doing something rash for the first few weeks after Lois's death, but after a year, he should be getting on with living. Besides, today was the last day of Superman's probation. Today he was a 'free' man.
"Clark, I know it's none of my business, but I think it would help if you could bring yourself to forgive Superman," Perry said softly. "I know it's a lot to ask, but think about it."
"I've tried, Chief, I really have," Clark said. "And maybe, someday, I'll be able to do it. I'll be okay."
"Seeing your parents this weekend?" Perry knew Clark flew out to Smallville about once a month to see his parents. He never asked how he could afford the repeated airfare.
"Actually, they're flying out here Tuesday afternoon," Clark said. "I bought them tickets for that new production of Romeo and Juliet at the Opera House and rooms at the Lexor. Mom's been talking about it for a month. I think she'll really like it."
"Have a good weekend then," Perry said. "I'll see you Monday."
"Monday," Clark repeated, but there was something distant in his expression. "Yeah, you'll see me Monday." He reached under the desk and grabbed the box of CDs and headed toward Jimmy Olsen's desk. "Good bye, Perry."
Perry watched as Clark handed out the CDs to various people in the newsroom, saying 'good bye' to each of them as he went. He even had something for Ralph. Later, Perry would wonder how he could have been so blind.
Sunday, Perry, Alice, Jimmy and several others of the staff stopped by to visit Lois Lane's grave. One year. One year since they'd lost their friend and co-worker. They were a little surprised that Clark wasn't there, but Perry knew the young man had been there earlier. There were fresh flowers in the metal vase beside Lois's headstone. This was a ritual Clark did every week. This time there was a note stuck in the flowers. 'I miss you so much. Please wait for me.' It was signed simply 'Clark'. Perry put the note back. It wouldn't do for Clark to think he was spying on him.
Clark didn't come into work Monday morning. Alarms went off in Perry's head as he dialed Clark's apartment. A recorded message said that number was no longer working.
"Jimmy!" Perry yelled. Jimmy Olsen jumped to his feet. "Have you heard from Clark?"
"No chief," Jimmy answered.
"Come on," Perry roared. "We've got to find him!" 'Dear God, don't let it be too late,' he prayed silently.
Jimmy grabbed his jacket and followed Perry of the newsroom, ignoring the sudden silence as the rest of the staff tried to make sense of what was happening.
Perry and Jimmy arrived at the door to Clark's fifth floor apartment in record time. The door was locked, and there was no answer to their knocks, but Jimmy had hidden talents. The door was open in no time and they walked in.
The place looked like Clark was packing to move. The bookshelves and CD racks were empty and there were neatly stacked boxes on the floor. It looked like Clark was moving, until Perry noticed names marked on the boxes. Perry, Jimmy, Cat, Mom and Dad. There was even one marked 'Ralph'. Perry's heart sank.
Jimmy saw the stricken expression on his superiors' face and hurried to Clark's bedroom, yelling "CK!"
He stopped at the door and his breath caught in his throat. "Chief!"
Perry stopped behind Jimmy in the doorway. "Dear God in heaven." Perry had been a journalist in Beirut during one of the many conflicts. He had seen dead bodies before and was not easily shocked. But what he saw in the darkened room both shocked and dismayed him.
Clark almost looked like he was asleep, completely relaxed, cuddled up to a large teddy bear, his face nearly buried in the fur, white sheet pulled up to his waist. Asleep, except for the yellow green cast to his skin, and the open gray box near his head filled with green glowing crystals. There was a wine glass on the bed stand next to his glasses. In the bottom of the glass there were grains of glowing green sand mixed with a few drops of white wine.
Perry thought the bear looked like one Lois had before she died. The one she said Clark won for her at a carnival. He stepped closer to the bed, to Clark's body, checking for a pulse at his throat out of habit. Clark's skin was cold, cadaver cold. There were salt stains on his face, as though he had cried himself to sleep. Perry guessed he'd been dead nearly 24 hours.
"Is he . . .?" Jimmy asked.
"He's gone," Perry said. "Happened sometime yesterday, I'd guess. I should have known."
"That's kryptonite," Jimmy pointed out. "He didn't want Superman to save him."
"No," Perry said softly. "Clark wanted to be sure he was dead."
"But, we have to . . ." Jimmy began.
"No, Jimmy," Perry said, not taking his eyes off of Clark's face. He'd never seen Clark without his glasses, and now he knew why. "We don't have to tell Superman. Believe me, he already knows. We just need to call the police."
Inspector Bill Henderson led the investigation personally, even though it was a cut and dried case of suicide, except for the presence of the kryptonite. Doctor Klein of STAR Labs told them Superman himself had taken the lead case from the secure vault. He hadn't said why he wanted it, only that it would be returned soon. It was returned by Bill Henderson, not Superman.
The investigators found two empty wine bottles, one in the living room, and one that had rolled under the bed. In the kitchen garbage were several prescription bottles of anti-depressants and powerful painkillers. Later, toxicology tests would show both wine bottles had traces of the same anti-depressants and painkillers, as well as powdered kryptonite. "Either one of the drugs would have been enough to kill him," Bill told Perry much later.
They were wheeling the bagged body out of the apartment when Clark's parents walked in. Martha gasped as she saw the body bag. "Please, god, no! Please, no. Not Clark, not my baby!"
Jonathan hugged his wife close. "What happened?" Jonathon asked, voice cracking.
"Yesterday was the anniversary of Lois's death," Perry said. He blinked away tears. "I didn't catch the signs Friday. They were all there, and I didn't see them. He said he was okay and I believed him. He said goodbye to everyone at work before he left."
Martha pulled herself away from her husband's protective arms and hurried to follow the gurney. Jonathan followed more slowly. He found his wife looking down on at the lifeless face of their son. The right side of Clark's face was mottled with what looked like dark purple bruises – post mortem lividity. The term had come unbidden to him. Clark had been laying on his right side when he died.
"My poor baby, my poor boy," Martha murmured, tears running down her face. Jonathon pulled his wife away and allowed the medical team to zip the body bag back up. He led her back into the apartment where Perry and Jimmy waited, not bothering to wipe away his own tears.
"We flew in a day early," Jonathan said. "So we could spend some time with him. He was sounding so odd the last time we talked to him, we got worried."
"Perry," Bill said. He had a digital video camera in his hand. "There's a note on this addressed to you and them." The police officer turned to Clark's parents. "I'm sorry you had to learn about it this way. Clark was a good kid. We all liked him."
Perry opened the note. It was in Clark's clear, firm hand.
Perry, Mom and Dad. I hope this recording explains everything. I'm sorry.
Bill plugged the camera into the television and turned on both units as Jonathan guided his wife to the sofa to sit next to Perry.
The television screen brightened to show Clark's face. The time code in the corner of the screen indicated the recording had been made Sunday morning. Perry noted absently that it was about the time he and Alice and the others had been at Lois's grave.
On the screen Clark was seated on the sofa, a filled wine glass in his hand. The image began to speak.
"Perry, Mom, Dad. If you're watching this, then I was successful, and I'm finally dead. I mean, my body is dead. My soul died when Lois did. Everybody kept telling me it would get better, that time heals all wounds, I would start living again. It wasn't true. I know she didn't want me to blame myself. And I've tried; I've tried so hard to go on. But I can't. I can't keep living the lie that I'm not to blame, that there wasn't another solution that I just wasn't smart enough to see."
On the screen, Clark took a swallow of the wine. He grimaced as if in pain and took off his glasses, tossing them aside on the sofa.
"I killed her. It doesn't matter that she wanted me to do it. She wanted me to freeze her so I could save you. All that matters is that I failed to bring her back. She trusted me to do it, and I failed. I can't live with that any more. I'm sorry. Mom and Dad, I'm sorry I've disappointed you, but I'm just not strong enough to keep going. Perry, my obituary is on my computer at work. Lois wrote it. It started out as a sort of joke. We wrote each other's obituaries. You used the one I wrote for her last year. You can use the one she wrote for me. All you need to do is add the cause of death. Needless to say, it's not natural causes."
He took another long drink of wine, emptying the glass, and then refilled it from a bottle that had been off screen. He ran his hand through his hair, brushing it back from his face. He'd started to cry, letting the tears run down his face unheeded.
"I didn't think this would be so hard. Making this recording, I mean. My will is in my desk at work. I had it updated last week. I don't know if there's really a special place in hell for suicides. All I know is that it can't possibly be any worse than the hell I've been living in. I love you Mom, Dad. Even you, Perry, you were like an uncle to me. Please forgive me. Please?"
On the screen, he picked up a remote and pressed a button. The television screen went blank.
They sat in stunned silence for a long moment, the silence broken only by Martha Kent's quiet sobs, the murmurs of her husband as he tried to comfort her and himself.
Finally, Perry turned to Bill Henderson, noting the other man's attempt to not look stunned at what he'd seen on the recording. "Bill, is there any way we can avoid an autopsy?"
"Perry, you know it's the law. It's a suspicious death."
"Please, Bill. We know Clark killed himself and we know how and why he did it. Can't we just go with that? The world doesn't need to know why Clark Kent needed kryptonite to do the job, do they?"
Bill considered the request for a long moment. "I guess you're right. I'll let the coroner know I've signed off the case as a suicide. They still have to hold the body for a while and I probably won't be able to stop them from taking blood samples for the toxicology work up, but there shouldn't be an autopsy."
"Thanks, Bill," Perry said. "I owe you one."
"What are you going to say about him?"
Perry took some time to think about his answer, knowing Martha's and Jonathan's eyes were on him, seeing Jimmy's confusion as the boy finally realized the enormity of what had happened.
"Nothing," he said finally. "Clark Kent is dead. Superman is . . . missing."