My senses return in a rush. Once again, I am thankful for my uniquely invulnerable skin and insensitive nerve endings when it comes to pain; my eardrums are vibrating at a level that would cause human eardrums to shatter painfully, the noise from all around me is incredible and unfiltered, as I've learned to do over the years. The blocks go up reflexively, and then all that is left are the sounds my own body makes—lungs expanding and contracting, heart beating, the dull clicking of joints as I stir in the hospital bed. I expand my hearing to let the sounds of the room in, but all I hear is the beeping of a heart monitor and the whirring of the computers by the bed. It's safe to open my eyes.
I'm in a hospital bed—that much I'd already figured out. Somebody has removed the suit; it's lying across the visitors' chair in the corner. Somehow I feel naked without it, though that might just be the open-backed hospital gown I'm wearing. It's a plain hospital room, nothing extraordinary about it so far as I can tell, not that I've been in many hospital rooms myself; I've seem plenty of ERs and ambulance entrances, not too many rooms.
There are two police officers standing outside the double doors, both with the slightly elevated heart rates of people who are on edge, wary of danger or nervous about something. There is a swarm of similarly anxious heart beats gathered beyond the wall to my right; a massive gathering of people in front of the hospital's main entrance. They're gathered with posters and candles, police officers working crowd control at the doors. The crowd extends nearly a block in either direction.
That's insane. They don't even really know who I am. Would they stand there for Clark Kent? Doubtful.
My mother is there in the crowd. She looks worried beyond belief. I hate that that worry is there because of me. Ben Hubbard is standing with her. She hasn't told him who I really am; he probably just thinks that she's concerned about Superman. Concerned enough to buy a plane ticket and stand at the front of the crowd for… days? How long has it been?
Three days. I've been out of it for three days according to the wall calendar in the office a few hallways over; the days are scratched off in red, the days I've been here circled in blue pen.
My poor mother.
I climb out of the hospital bed, making sure not to make a noise loud enough for the officers standing guard to hear, and blur into the skin-tight suit. It takes less than a couple of seconds, as tends to happen with super-speed. I leave my hospital gown where the suit was, feeling much more comfortable in the blue and red, though this suit leaves nothing to the imagination, I'm sure. Some days I wish I could just take off the suit and be Clark for a day in my ill-fitting tweed. The tweed isn't the best, but I often wonder what it would be like to be one of them, those gathered outside right now, the normal human beings; I wonder what it would be like to be the one imagining flying and staring in wonder at one who could, instead of being the one with a world on his shoulders. Days when I'm thinking like that usual turn around when I save a busload of kids on their way home from school or something and the primary colors and the responsibilities and sacrifices that go with them are worth it. Even remembering rescues, and I've never forgotten one of them, makes it worth it.
There's a nurse coming to check on me, so I jump out the window. They shouldn't have given me a room with a window if they didn't want me to just leave; I suspect somebody thought of that, though. Nice of them. The alarm rings behind me, alerting the hospital to my disappearance even though I'm just sitting on the roof. If I weren't so crowd-shy when it gets down to it, I would go make some sort of thank-you speech. But, I'm crowd shy. How's that for irony?
The night is clear up here on the roof, the moon shining down on the crowd below though none of them would be able to see it properly with all the light around them. There's a slight breeze up here, swirling the voices of the crowd around me; sometimes one voice more strong than another, conversations taking dominance in the ripples of sound. Everybody is concerned down there but it also seems to be prime social spot for the locals and there are a few entrepreneurs taking advantage of the large gathering, hot dog venders keeping the crowd fed and others selling t-shirts with my house crest on them. The smell of hot dogs, not a particularly appetizing food when you really think about it, nearly has my mouth watering; I don't usually have to eat, sunlight is enough, but I suppose I've been out for three days—no sunlight, no food. Yeah, hot dogs are sounding pretty good.
I'll have to wait 'til later to talk to Mom. She's right at the front of the crowd; I can't exactly drop out of the sky to talk to her. And Ben is there. I wonder how he'll take it when he finally figures out the truth? If he knows my mom well enough to take her to Bingo and keep up conversation, he knows that she's not the type of person who would be a groupie—who would fly across the country to stand in a crowd for a superhero. They're staying at my apartment, so I'll talk to them after I talk to Lois.
Lois. Oh, God, Lois. And Jason. My son.
She made some pretty hefty statements while I was out. She wasn't sure if I could hear her. I certainly could. That and the damn heart monitor. The thing was giving me a headache. I'm supposed to be impervious to headaches.
- - -
"Goodnight!" Jason calls out from his window as I drift across the lawn. My son is telling me goodnight. Not for the first time in my life, I'm speechless. I can't think of anything to say. Or, actually, I think of too many things to say. There is so much I want to tell that little boy smiling at me in his Aquaman pajamas. First of all… Aquaman? A.C. would laugh his ass off if he knew that Superman's kid wore Aquaman pajamas to bed. Then there're the Batman sheets, but I concede. There's so much more. 'Goodnight' would cut it, but 'I love you, son' would be better. I want to repeat the little speech I just gave to his conscious form, but I know he's too young to really understand those words. I can't really say any of those, though, because Lois has now spotted me from her place on the lawn.
"I thought," she says, her voice too high, catching in her throat. She's so quiet, the gentle crashing of the waves on the dock and the creaking of the rope keeping Richard's seaplane from drifting away almost drown her voice out, but Lois' voice is one I'll never let get away from my ears.
I can't stop myself, I fly down to her level, standing close and looking into her eyes. She looks so fragile right now. I can barely hold in my smile when I notice the cigarette and lighter she's holding, but not using. "Are you alright?"
"I'll be fine," I assure her with as much confidence as I can pump into my voice. She breathes a sigh of relief and I give her a small smile.
"I was so worried," she admits, putting a hand on my chest, tracing the edge of the 'S' symbol there. I resist the shiver that her touch evokes, and the urge to cover her hand with mine. I can hear Richard snoring in the bedroom they share, and Jason is fussing with his sheets, getting himself properly covered.
"I heard you," I say after a moment, finally giving in and taking her hand in my own, moving it off my chest but barely.
"You did?" She swallows, glancing up at the house behind her. Her heart is racing, has been since I took her hand in mine. I wonder if its nerves or if there is still something there. Something that she can feel, remember, even though I was an idiot and took away her memories of the most precious time of my life.
"I have remarkably good ears," I say, trying to lighten the mood, smiling. She smiles back and seems surprised that I would say something like that. It's probably more human than she's come to expect from me. Her smile falters, her heart now back to a more normal pace. She looks up into my eyes, begging me for my honesty. I know what's coming next.
"Why can't I remember?"
"Because," I say slowly. Superman doesn't lie. I can't tell her the whole truth, though, or she'll be just as miserable as before. Or will she be? She'll be incredibly angry either way, I know that much. "I had to take your memories of that time away."
"Why?" He voice isn't even accusing, just hurt.
Oh, God, I love you so much, Lois. And you'll never know how much. I can never tell you. Not again. I love you too much to hurt you like that.
"It hurt you, Lois," I say softly. "It hurt you so much."
"How would it hurt me? I don't understand, Superman," the name catches in her throat because it's the name she gave me; she can't remember what to really call me. "I don't even know your real name."
"I was born Kal-El," I remind her.
"But you have a different name, too, don't you?" I nod.
"And I knew it once."
"You knew everything once."
"I don't understand why you took it away."
"It hurt you, Lois. You knew who I was and we couldn't be together. You saw me going out and doing what I do, and all you did was worry. It's not possible for me to be with you the way you deserve. I'll always have to go off and be Superman. The world has to come first; that was proven to us in those few days that we were together."
"Just a few days?"
"A few perfect days," I say, wanting to hug her, touch her, anything. All I can do is squeeze her hand, gently, though. "And then Zod came and he tried to use you against me to take over the world… it almost worked. We can't let that happen again. We can't be close. I can't tell you who I am and put you in that danger."
"What about Jason?"
"Jason," I sigh. Jason knows who I am, both parts. He heard me talking just now, so he knows I'm his father, and he realized that Clark Kent and Superman are one in the same on the first day I met him. He's a very smart boy. "I want to be part of his life, Lois, but nobody can know that I am. I don't want either of you in that danger."
"Don't you think we should have a choice?" Her voice is accusing. I can understand that.
"Jason," I start, wondering what I should tell her. "Jason knows everything, Lois. He's a smart boy. He figured it out."
"I think you just insulted my intelligence."
"No," I say, chuckling. "I just complimented your son."
"Your son, too."
"Please tell me."
"I—" I want to tell her that I can't, but I also want to tell her everything. "Lois," I start again and then sigh. "If you look hard enough, you'll figure it out again. Just… think about what I said. If you figure it out I won't lie to you, but—it will be a burden, knowing my secrets."
"Are they a burden to you?"
"Yes," I almost laugh out loud, but it's too hard to laugh at that, so my smile falls off my face. "We see each other every day, Lois. I see Jason every day. And I can't let myself act the way I'd like to," I know right then I've said too much. Way too much. I should probably just kiss it away again. The look on her face tells me she'd probably let me kiss her, it also tells me that she's searching her memory banks for any possibilities of who I am.
Two houses down, a husband and wife rage at each other. Neither seems to even remember what they're mad about. I scan the house for other occupants automatically, finding nothing; at least there are no kids listening to their parents fight. Except maybe Jason. How long until he can hear those people fighting down the street? How long until he starts hovering in his sleep? How can I ever leave him alone through that? I would've given anything to have had somebody even remotely similar to me when my powers were developing to tell me I wasn't a freak; I can't let him go through that alone, even as I can't be there for him every second of every day.
"Take me flying?" She asks, jarring me from my own spiraling thoughts.
"We—" I start to say, "we shouldn't," but I don't.
She stands on my feet again, dropping her cigarette and lighter down on top of her slippers and gripping my forearms.
"You know, you really shouldn't smoke, Lois," I say with a small smile. As I look up from the dropped lighter and cigarette I x-ray through her skin to the soft tissues beneath, checking for cancer as I've done the first time I see her nearly every day since our first interview. She's lucky, there's no cancer, no death creeping up on her from within.
"You'll notice I didn't even light that one," she says, a proud smirk on her face that I have to refocus to see.
"Going cold turkey?" I immediately want to hit myself. First of all, it's a dorky thing to say. Second of all, she's staring at me in startled surprise, as though she hadn't expected me to know that phrase. But why wouldn't I know it? I live here too, she knows. I suppose I keep forgetting that all she remembers about me is the alien side that shows up for her interviews. Admittedly, there's only been once since my return, but before I left, after the business with Zod, we had a few and I can't say that I was anything but distractedly aloof.
"As of five minutes ago, yes," she smirks, forcing herself to stop staring. Her heart is hammering in her chest and a deep breath forces it slower. An unexpected, though I should've expected it, rush of tenderness flood me; she should be boiling over with questions that she has every right to frame with dislike, but here she is joking about her worst habit. "But I'll talk to you tomorrow about that one, and we'll see."
"I guess we will," I say. It might also help that I've thrown out the stash she had at work, and the stash she had in her purse.
We're out over the harbor now, well out of sight of her house so far as her eyes can tell. I can see Jason climbing back into bed; he watched us take off. Either he's like me and he doesn't need very much sleep, or he's like Lois and he's too curious for his own health.
We fly for another minute, leaving the harbor behind to be out above the open ocean. There was so much terror in this ocean three days ago, and now it's calm. The waves aren't even very bad tonight. The crashing is loud but soothing in its own way against my eardrums, and I'm sure its helping the mood for Lois. She's just standing there on my feet, holding onto my arms. One of her thumbs is drawing little circles, I don't think she notices. It's as soothing as the waves, her touch. I wish I could kiss her, or even just hold her more closely. Chalk another point up on the side of my heart that wants to tell her all my secrets and hope she accepts me.
"Can I kiss you?" She asks out of the blue. It's all I can do not to drop several feet in the air. Her thumb stops on my arm when I tense ever so slightly; I guess she was doing that on purpose.
"Lois," I say, uncertain. Yes, I want to kiss her. Badly. But how far can we let ourselves go, here? Before I can make up my mind, her lips are on mine. She's a helluva kisser, I'll tell you that.
I pause only for a moment before responding. Her tongue begs entrance and I succumb, fighting for and winning control of the kiss shortly after. Her hands are no longer clutching my forearms; instead they are in my hair, on my neck, pulling me closer. One of my hands has to stay on her waist, not that that's a bad thing, so that she doesn't fall down into the ocean that wouldn't be so soothing up close. A drop to the ocean from this height and the water might as well be concrete so far as Lois is concerned. That makes me pull her closer with the arm around her waist while the other is tangled in her hair; the elastic band holding her hair back dropped into the sea below so that I'd have the full advantage of her thick curls in my hand.
We break apart, gasping for breath. I can't believe I let her do that; that I went along with it. I can feel the warm metal of her engagement ring on the hand still holding onto my neck. Her other hand is resting on my chest.
"I'll never get that elastic back, will I?" She asks, smirking.
"Sorry," but I'm not. She smiles now, not smirks, and I can't help but smile back. Not one of the little, guarded smiles people (and Lois) are used to seeing in the paper on Superman's face, but an honest-to-God smile that only my Mom ever sees these days. The ones at the office are overdone; the ones for the papers are underdone. This is my smile, and this one's for Lois. I think she knows that, too. Except for the part about Mom.
"You're a liar," she tells me, back to the smirk.
"Well," I say, "I would be sorry, if you were really upset about loosing an elastic."
"If you say so," she shrugs, moving her hand from my chest to wrap around my back, trailing across the muscles I had to do no work whatsoever to get. Her fingers make their way to the spot on my back that I was stabbed and I flinch. She pulls back, looking up at me carefully. "Are you alright? I thought you said…?"
"I'll be alright," I assure her, wishing I hadn't reacted so much. It's just not every day that I feel any sort of pain at all. I can't even stub my toe. Heck, when I stub my toe I usually put a dent in the floor. "It's just a bit tender. I'll get some sun and it'll be fine."
"Are you sure, I mean…" she shakes her head, her eyes a bit teary. I kiss her forehead, using my free hand to brush a tendril of hair out of her face, my hand coming to rest cupping her cheek.
"I'll be fine, Lois. I rarely get hurt, and when I do I don't stay hurt for long."
"This is what I meant about the worrying thing," I whisper, holding back a chuckle.
"Well why shouldn't I worry about you? You're the father of my son. There's so much to lose," her voice catches and she clears her throat, looking up at me boldly. "You see, it won't matter now, anyways, if I know who you are. I'll worry just as much just knowing you're Kal-El than knowing you're… Ralph from Starbucks… You're not Ralph, are you?"
"No, I'm not Ralph," I laugh. I've gotten my coffee from Ralph before. He's about half my height, has a potbelly, and a handlebar mustache. "Though he makes an excellent caramel macchiato."
Now that surprises her. She's probably trying to think of all the guys she knows who would go for a caramel macchiato. I can't say I'm one of them. Ralph makes really good caramel macchiatos, but I usually just order a tall black coffee and add a cream. Or just leave it black. It doesn't really do much for me, anyways. Not even triple espresso. Kind of sucks. It does take the edge off a long night, though, if I'm tired enough.
"Stop stressing, Lois, it's not my usual order," she chuckles.
"So, Mister coffee-guy. What's my usual order?"
"As much as possible as fast as possible."
"Two creams, one sugar in the biggest mug the Daily Planet bullpen has ever seen."
"It was a gift."
"I know," I say, trying to keep the smirk out of my voice. It was a gift from me after our first year as partners.
"I'm staring to think you're a super-stalker, here, Superman."
"No, I'm just closer than you think," I smile and look down at her face. She's still trying to place me. I can't help but feel bad. She won't rest until she figures it out, and then it's going to tear her life apart. I look away.
"You're not going to like it when you figure it out."
"Do we not get along?"
"We get along fine," I say, chuckling. We even started finishing each others' sentences again just before she went and got on Luthor's yacht. I have to suppress a shudder at that thought. "It's just… like I said; I'm closer than you think. It will be a tough day when it comes to you. I just don't want it to be too soon."
"You're talking about what's going to happen at home, for me, when I figure it out."
"Yes," I say solemnly, the mood broken despite our still intimate posturing.
"I can't tell you what will happen," she sighs. "I can tell you, though, that I enjoyed that kiss a lot more than I should've," she kisses the corner of my jaw at the soft spot near my ear. She found that spot fast last time too. I close my eyes as she continues kissing along my jaw. "I haven't… I haven't even felt the need to kiss Richard like this since about a month before you got back," she sighs, stopping her kisses and leaning her forehead on my collarbone.
"What?" I'm surprised. They look so happy together at the bullpen. Could it just be a front for the office? For Perry? She sighs again, her warm breath hitting my chest and warming my heart. She really shouldn't be able to do these things to me.
"It's just… I don't know."
"Lois," I say softly, almost so softly that I think the wind will take it away before it meets her ears.
"Kal-El," she says, looking up at me again. "I promise you're not ruining my pristine domestic existence. I've been… putting off the wedding for so long Richard was staring to think there was a reason other than nerves, and there was tension. And then you came back and he noticed other changes in my behavior. Whenever I look at Jason I see you, and I can't help but think… Richard isn't you."
"Nobody else is me, Lois."
"Expect for that mystery guy that I apparently see every day close enough so that he knows how I take my coffee."
"Ah, the real me, I suppose," I say, and she looks thoughtfully at me for another moment. Again, I curse myself for letting my guard slip.
"So this is the act, then?" She asks. "The aloof detachment from the earthbound population."
"I suppose," I say warily. Yes! I want to scream. I'm not nearly as arrogant as I come across when in costume, I want to tell her. "But I don't act exactly like I normally would then, either."
"How do you mean?"
"Well, I have to put people off my tracks," I smirk.
"Is this the way you normally act?" She asks. She has backed up slightly, her hands on my upper arms this time instead of my forearms, keeping herself closer than she was when we took off, but not so close as she was a few moments ago.
"I suppose it is," I bite my lip. I'm giving way too much away. I should bring her back to her house and her fiancé and our son. I should get as far away from her as possible to keep from hurting her again. At the same time, though, I'm praying that she puts the absences in both my lives together, and figures me out, and accepts me. "I'm being incredibly irresponsible tonight."
A particularly large wave crashes into the nearest below us, though Lois doesn't notice. I can hear fish moving about beneath the surface, flitting here and there with the movement of the water, their tails making bubbles erupt in their wake and rush to the surface with a faint fizzing sound. It's distracting, I tune it out.
"I shouldn't want you to figure this out, Lois, but I do." Now when did that happen? I came into this conversation ready to step back, let Lois and Richard rebuild their relationship and carry on with the lives. Now I want her to figure out who I am, hopefully make her peace with it and let me have at least a small part in my son's life (I'll do anything to get that, even beg if she makes me).
She looks at me for a moment. All of her features are clear in the moonlight, her intelligent eyes gleaming in the far-off reflections of the water below. Then she's kissing me again. I wonder if I'll ever be the one to kiss her first. Probably not, I'm too shy. There's part of the Clark Kent persona that I didn't have to make up, or even exaggerate very far.
Did I mention she's an amazing kisser? Or maybe she's not and I'm just biased. That tends to happen when you're in love, and I certainly am. By the way she's kissing me I think she might still love me, too. Or maybe she's just hoping I can reverse the memory-wipe I did all those years ago.
"Lois," I mumble against her lips, not really wanting to stop kissing her.
"Hm?" She asks, pulling back ever so slightly. I continue to kiss her, trailing a wet line along her jaw and down to her collarbone. She moans as I get farther down. She moaned last time too. She moaned a lot last time we were together like this. I'll have to stop myself before I get much more into it. I still have to go home and talk to my mother, after all.
"I should take you back," I tell her, kissing her open lips again, then her cheeks, then her eyelids, then her lips again. Her tongue is warm and moist against mine. I really don't want to stop this.
"Yeah, it's getting late," she manages to get out, but she doesn't pull away. I can't think well enough to determine a flight plan when we're like this. I can barely remember to keep us level in the air; gravity really doesn't bother me, but I have a feeling Lois would notice.
I finally pull back, licking my lips and tasting her on them. I'm barely keeping it together as it is, I won't be able to get her scent out of my nose for a month, and I don't know how I'm going to face her at work tomorrow. Do I bring her coffee first thing in the morning when she walks in just to see if she notices? Maybe I should get her order wrong just to throw her off, or would that work? Maybe I'll get her a caramel macchiato.
"Please just tell me who you are," she whispers, again she's sucking on the place below my ear. I fight back a moan. Keep it together Kent!
"Tomorrow, Lois, I'll make sure you figure it out tomorrow," I say, barely believing I'm agreeing to it. Of course, I'm also wondering whether or not I can get a hickey. Probably not, invulnerability will take care of that. At least she won't know the moment she sees me because she would see the mark she made on Superman last night now on Clark Kent.
A plan is forming in my mind, though. Let her figure it out. Let her make her judgments. See where we stand. Work it out between the pair of us. Then we bring Jason into it; see where we all stand together. Then, finally, bring Richard into it. Richard is the most volatile variable of this equation, though; I don't know him well enough to predict how he'll react to this when presented with it, or how he'll react before we tell him anything, while we're working everything out.
Everything will rest with Lois, I decide. I will do what she feels is best, what she wants. My being part of Jason's life is exempt to that rule, of course; that's the one thing I'll stand up for.
Somehow I've managed to bring us to the air just above 312 Riverside Drive. She looks down and sighs.
"They're both asleep," I tell her. She kisses me again on the mouth, passionately, desperately. I kiss her back just because I know she won't want me to by this time tomorrow, and because I really wish she would. "Just promise me one thing."
"What?" She asks, leaning back and not removing her hands from my hair. We are slowly descending towards the front lawn where her slippers and cigarette wait.
"That we can have the argument you're sure to want in a private place."
"I don't want to fight with you."
"Yes you will," I smirk. She loves fighting with Clark Kent almost as much as she loves kissing Superman. When she puts those two together she's either going to take me to bed because I'm her best friend and not the creep from copying, or track down Lex Luthor and buy his stock of kryptonite so that she can fashion herself a large stick to hit me over the head with repeatedly.
"Alright," she sighs, kissing me lightly one more time. "I promise to drag you someplace private before throttling you. Though that really won't work," there's a gleam in her eye I know is reflected in my own. "And I really can't see myself wanting to fight with you."
"I can," I say sadly. She's going to be hurt that I kept this secret from her. We're friends, good friends despite my absence, at work, and we have a son together. That should be enough to trust her and tell her. I still really don't want to hurt her, though. This is going to hurt her, but not knowing is hurting her, too. This has the potential of turning out really well for the pair of us, or very badly for the pair of us. And then there's Richard to think about, again. I don't know him, but Lois wouldn't be with him if he weren't a good person, she said herself he was a good man.
"Alright," she says again softly. She pulls back so that she's standing on my feet and holding my forearms like when we took off. I feel a little lost without her close presence, not that she isn't still close. "Is anybody watching?" She asks when she steps off my feet, putting on her slippers and standing a few feet away, looking thoughtful.
"No…?" I say, hearing only soft snores and slow heartbeats coming from all the houses around us.
"Good," she whispers before taking a quick step closer and jumping a little to recapture my lips. I smile against her lips, holding her tightly to keep her from slipping away.
"Goodnight, Lois," I say, pecking her lips another time and lowering her to the ground.
"Goodnight, Kal-El," she says right back. "I'll see you tomorrow."
"Yes you will," I assure her before floating off.
I hang in the air above her house, watching her gather her cigarette and lighter off the ground, tossing them in the trash as she walks into the house. I can't help but smile at that. She checks on Jason and heads toward her bedroom door. I have to leave. I can't watch her lay down next to Richard.
- - -
Mom is still awake when I return home. Ben Hubbard is sitting on my sofa next to her and they're watching the news. The report is out that Superman left the hospital, but everybody is worrying that I either went off somewhere to die or various other awful possibilities.
I enter through the hole in the wall silently, stilling the tarp as best I can, and watch them sit and watch the reports. Ben still doesn't know why she cares so much, but he obviously cares about her. I can trust him, I think. Mom needs somebody to talk to about all this anyway. It's no fair to her to have to keep my secrets on that lonely farm all by herself.
I really don't know how to start this conversation, though. Oh, hi, Mister Hubbard. Sorry about those crop circles I made in your corn when I was twelve. I thought it was funny. Thanks for taking care of my mom, and, by the way, I'm from a different planet. Ironic about the crop circles, eh?
"Mom?" I say instead, standing just outside the ring of light from the TV. I can see the light reflecting off the shiny redness of my boots, catching on the 'S' emblem on my chest, probably illuminating my face in a decidedly eerie way. I wonder why they haven't turned on any lights.
"Clark?" She says, spinning around on the couch and then getting off the couch altogether, rushing around it and throwing herself at me. She performs the same little jump Lois did only moments ago, but she aims so that her head is on my shoulder, her arms wrapped around my neck to keep her in place. I can't help but smile, holding her around the waist tightly and moving more into the light and closer to the couch. Mister Hubbard is staring open mouthed at me, his heart racing, drawing breath like he'd like to say something and exhaling in confusion. I set her down near the couch and she starts talking a mile a minute, "Clark, honey, what happened? Are you okay? Where did you go? You've been missing for hours! Everybody's so worried! Are you sure you're alright? Nobody would tell us what happened! I couldn't get in to see you!"
She would've kept going if I hadn't started laughing.
"It's not funny, Clark! You were in a coma for three days! You!"
"I know," I say, still smiling. I've withdrawn slightly, folding my arms across my chest and looking down at her. I know my eyes are still laughing even though my mouth isn't anymore.
My living room is as plain as it was before I hefted the growing kryptonite continent into space: the plain TV on the unremarkable TV stand, my minimal DVD collection (the Simpsons and a few interesting documentaries I missed while I was away) on the shelf below the TV, the cinder block bookcases along the walls filled with my extensive and multi-lingual book collection, the door with the chain hanging loose leading out into the empty hall beyond, the arch leading to the sparse kitchen—there was a layer of dust in the kitchen before I left, as I eat out if at all as of late… Mom has been cooking.
"Clark," she says, warning in her voice. I sigh.
"I'm fine, Mom. I'll be okay," I assure her like I assured Lois. "It was just… a lot of kryptonite."
"A lot of kryptonite?" She asks incredulously. "Clark, you lifted an island the reporters are saying was made of kryptonite into space… You could've died!" Her voice catches despite the threatening look on her face.
"It—" I start, but realize that's not the way to go. "I'm okay, Mom. I'll be fine… Are you okay? I saw you at the hospital."
"Why didn't you come down and say something, then?"
"Mom, there were so many people in that crowd, and… you know I don't like big groups of people, or speeches, or anything like that," she's smirking at me.
"I know, honey," she sighs, patting me on the cheek. Then she's looking me over, walking around me, lifting my arms and cape, looking for any wounds. Luckily the stab wound on my back is nothing but a light line and a greenish bruise. It'll be gone by morning with any luck. Her heartbeat jumps significantly when she sees the tear in the suit. "Clark, what is this?" She asks, running her fingers gingerly along the scar. Again, I flinch away, twisting lightly out of her grasp and coming to stand a step away. Probably not the best idea, now she looks even more worried than before.
"It's fine, just a bit tender," I say, running a tentative hand over my back and jerking it away when I find the hole in the suit. "I'll need a patch job, though, I think."
"Lex Luthor," I say quietly. "He had a, uh, shard of kryptonite. He stabbed me with it," she sucks in a breath and I immediately regret telling her. "I'm fine, though, Mom. Just a little sore. It'll be fine in the morning. With the sunrise."
"Oh, honey," she sighs, coming over and wrapping her arms around me again. I just smile and pat her back comfortably. Ben clears his throat, snapping her out of it as the TV announcer reports that Superman has now been out of sight for going on four hours and the world is worried. I scowl at the TV.
"I'm going to change, and then, uh, we should… talk," I say, glancing at Ben. Mom nods, sitting down on the couch and turning off the TV.
It takes me a grand total of two seconds to get out of the suit and into jeans and a white t-shirt. I bring my glasses out with me and set them on the table, handing Mom the upper part of the suit minus the cape for inspection.
"Do you think you can mend it, or…?"
"It shouldn't be too hard," she says, probably trying not to think of how it got there so much as how to fix it. I just nod. Ben clears his throat again and Mom folds the shirt and puts it on the coffee table next to my glasses, the 'S' shield facing the room.
"So, um," Ben tries to start, still staring at me.
"Yeah," I say, running a hand through my hair. I got rid of the curl when I was changing into jeans, but it'll probably come back now that I've pushed my hair back. Way to go, me. This couldn't be any more awkward.