Sunday, June 17, 2007
Father's Day had started off well. All three Kents had dressed in their almost Sunday best for a nice brunch on the waterfront at the Siegel Hotel. The sun shone brightly through the large open windows facing the ocean and a strong breeze faintly tasting of sweet salty air swept through the massive room, cooling the dining patrons inside. The clinking of glasses and silverware on delicate china shared space with endless conversation, making for a lively atmosphere. Fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters gathered together all over the country to celebrate the dads in their lives, and after a long week, Jason finally had his, just not as long as he had thought he would…
Duty prepared to call Superman as a tropical storm off the western coast of Central America had quickly turned into a hurricane, flooding villages and causing mudslides throughout its countries. Lois noticed quite quickly that he got that distant look in his eyes, knew what was coming, and wasn't annoyed for herself but for Jason. She knew how much he'd been looking forward to today.
"What is it?" Jason looked up from his sliced fruit, realization dawning on his face as well.
Clark's jaw was set, gaze still far away as he listened to the news broadcast. "Hurricane. Flooding and mudslides." He quickly dabbed at his mouth with his linen napkin and turned apologetic eyes to Jason, sitting next to him in his own seat. "I'm sorry, Jason. I have to go."
"Do you have to go right now?" the boy whined.
Clark rose from his seat and walked around to face his son, stooping to his level to meet him eye to eye. "I wish I didn't."
The boy's bottom lip trembled and both his parents' hearts broke. "But it's Father's Day."
"I know, but if I don't go, lots of other boys and girls won't be able to celebrate with their daddies either."
"But Dad-" Whatever Jason had begun to say died on his lips as a small tear fell down each chubby cheek. His voice barely above a whisper, he asked, "Will you come back?"
Clark took his boy's face in his large hands, wiping away both tears with the gentle stroke of each thumb. "Don't I always?" The younger Kent nodded, avoiding his father's gaze. Jason understood all too well how important his daddy's job was, but that didn't mean he always liked it. Being the son of Superman wasn't always as fun as he had thought it would be. Despite the lie of the glasses, Jason saw the sincerity that lay behind them. "I promise I'll come home as soon as I can. Then we can finish our game from yesterday and whatever else you want. But you have to do me a favor."
"Sure." He was not enthused.
Clark looked over Jason's shoulder to Lois, who had moved to sit in Clark's seat stroking Jason's arms in motherly support. A smirk found its way into Clark's eyes. "Keep your mother out of trouble?"
That remark, an ongoing joke between father and son, brought a smile to little Jason's face. "Okay."
"Good. Now give me a hug." The obedient child that he was, Jason complied, tightly wrapping his short arms around his daddy's neck, not wanting to let go. Not that Clark really wanted him to…
"I love you."
"Love you, too, Daddy."
A kiss to the boy's cheek, then Clark reluctantly let go. "Be good for your mother, okay?"
"And you be good, too," he said, rising to meet Lois' waiting lips. She narrowed her eyes at him.
"Hmph." Why did he always think she went looking for trouble?
"I'll be back as soon as I can."
"We'll be waiting." One last kiss to Jason and Clark was making a quick exit from the dining hall. Lois and Jason turned back to look at each other. They'd been in this predicament many times before. "Looks like it's just you and me kiddo," she said, eyeing Clark's French toast.
"It's always just you and me," he pouted, using his fork to poke at a piece of cantaloupe.
"Not always, Jace. Just sometimes…and, a lot the last few days. Your father has a very important job."
He knew that. From the moment they told him the truth, he'd understood what it meant. The cherubic babe turned back toward his mother. "Mom, I may just be a little kid, but I get it. You don't have to keep telling me."
Said without disrespect or malcontent, Lois let it pass. He wasn't upset at Clark being gone again; that issue had been put to rest yesterday afternoon as the two had participated in the father and son baseball game at the park. Xbox and board games kept them occupied until a late dinner, after which Clark read several of Jason's favorite short stories until the boy could no longer hold his head up. No, this particular funk of Jason's had nothing to do with that, and everything to do with his Father's Day present. Since he first met the Superhero, he idolized him, wanted to be just like him. Actually being his son made that wish more of a possibility, only he hadn't exhibited any signs other than that one time…Jason just wanted to be like his father, to please him, to make him proud. What son wouldn't? So today of all days, when he was going to show his daddy what he could do, he had to wait until he came back. And none of the Kents knew when that would be.
Which is why Lois and Jason still found themselves perched on the sofa in their living room five hours later, the television turned to some random channel and neither one paying it any attention. Jason was leaning backwards against the side of her shoulder, his lower legs hanging over the side of the couch while he absentmindedly bit off his fingernails. Lois herself was stroking his soft tresses, staring out one of the windows across the room, not seeing the little blue bird perched on the sill. Her mind was elsewhere.
Was it ironic that on this warm summer day when the sky was bright and the sun shining, the one day out of the year to honor fathers - and in their case the man who worked tirelessly, endlessly, for the sake of others - that he was once again called into the line of duty? That the ones who wanted to honor him were the ones he always had to leave behind? Was that irony? Was Clark even thinking about them?
Lois faced herself to let that last train of thought dissipate. People are dying. Let him work. But while her head was saying one thing, her heart didn't speak the language. All she could think was that Clark wasn't there. Father's Day was supposed to be a big deal. It was their first and they'd made plans to spend the day together: brunch, ferry rides, Clark's gifts…She had been just as eager to give hers as Jason was to give his and could hardly contain herself. For two weeks her heart hadn't stopped racing. Now she was just annoyed with having to wait. Clark would be excited; at least she hoped he would. Besides, it wasn't like she could return it...
Coming out of her fog, Lois grabbed the remote, turning back to MSNBC to see if any footage had come in on Superman's rescues since she'd last checked. It had. He was currently in El Salvador where torrential rains and winds tried to force him off his path, his powerful frame the only lifeline for the three passengers who clung to him inside his life saving grip. The camera showed their descent, the three of them drenched with water and mud, crying with exhausted despair and relief. Once he had set them down to safety inside a nearby building, Superman took off again, quickly disappearing in the dark gray skies.
"As you can see," came the thin accent of a male, "the people of this country are grateful to the Man of Steel. Reportedly, he's been here for hours, rescuing citizens from mudslides, collapsed homes, rising waters, and things of that nature." The camera spun around to focus on the person to whom the voice belonged, a dark haired man of Middle Eastern descent, clean shaven. His rain jacket was wet and his hood was pulled away from his head, flapping behind him due to the forceful winds outside the door five feet in front of him. He was standing in a room no larger than half the size of a high school auditorium, the people behind him huddled together with fright. "While rescue workers try to do their part in the midst of this impressive hurricane, attempts are only made harder by the mudding over of roads.
"Numbers of people have already lost their lives, their bodies in the makeshift morgue next door. Most of the people you see behind me were rescued by Superman in the last hour or so, most of whom are without personal belongings as they've lost their homes in the storm. Locals from the neighboring areas have been bringing fresh food and water, but it's only a matter of time before food runs out. Superman can only do so much." Lois flipped off the screen and looked down at her boy. He had been watching too.
"Mommy, can we go to the movies?"
It had been a slow afternoon for the both of them. None of Jason's friends were home so he had no one to play with. Lucy and Ron were away celebrating with his family. Her own father had passed away years before and Jason had already called Richard while they were in her home office printing out pictures…It was just the two of them until Clark came back.
The hours hadn't gone by completely uneventful. Perry had called, begging Lois to come in to cover something that had gone on downtown. Any other day off she might have complied, but not today. It sure surprised Perry, who tried to hide it by changing his request to a barked order, but Lois wouldn't budge. He finally demanded a reason, and before she knew it, "Clark isn't feeling well," had spewed from her mouth.
"Kent's never been sick a day since I've known him!" he grumbled.
Clark, forgive me. "Well, I tried to make him breakfast this morning."
"Were you trying to kill him on purpose?" They had gone back and forth for a couple of minutes, the conversation ending with Perry muttering, "Now she's gotta start poisoning my reporters..." before he hung up.
Then there was the wrong caller who had called five times in a row. And she really wasn't in the mood for more tragedy from the news...maybe she and Jason were better off not at home. Don't worry about us, Clark. Do what you have to do.
"Sure," she told Jason, forcing herself up. "Go get my keys." He rolled off the couch and ran into the kitchen as she spoke aloud to herself. "I wouldn't mind seeing Shrek again."
Two movies and a trip to the toy store later, Lois had run a bath for Jason, nice and hot just the way he liked it, and was tucking him into bed, much to the boy's dismay. He wasn't ready for bed yet, not with his father still not home.
"Honey, I know today was an important day for you," she told him gently, pulling the covers up to his waist. Not that he really needed them; it was summer now and they were on the top floor of the house. "It didn't really go the way we planned, did it?" The boy shook his head, clutching the plush toy he relentlessly begged her for. She had given in, ignoring the smirk the cashier tried to smother with a cough. Though it was well known that she had moved on with her life, she feared she would never live down her "relationship" with Superman. But, anything for her son. Especially today. Anything to make him happy today. "I'm sorry."
"It's okay," he yawned, eyes closed. At first she thought he had fallen asleep; he was quiet for so long, then his eyes opened to look at her. So much like his father's… "It's a big storm. He'll come back when everybody's safe again."
Not even on this earth but for six years and the child was just as giving, just as understanding… A little sad, yes, but he accepted the reality of his life, their lives, for what it was, without question. She drew small circles into the small chub of his belly through the fabric of his pajamas. "I forgot what a tough kid you are."
"I'm a Lane," he smiled, tossing Lois's own words back at her.
"That you are." She returned his smile. "How about I wake you up when Daddy gets home?" They'd all be tired in the morning, but it'd be worth it.
"Really?" Jason nearly shot straight up but instead propped himself up on one elbow. Lois had never done that before, woken him up in the middle of the night, but then, he had been in school… "And I can show him my present?"
Her grin widened. "Yep. And I'll give him mine, too."
"What is yours, Mom?"
"I'm not telling you!" She laughed, joining his giggles as she tickled him. "You're just gonna have to wait and see now aren't you?"
The creak of the bedroom door opening yanked her from what could have been a horrible nightmare. Maybe it was a good thing that she couldn't remember what it was. "Jason?"
"No, it's me." Though he spoke quietly, Clark's deep timber was still heard as he came further into the bedroom. The motion sensor light behind the house turned on as some random animal wandered through the backyard, and it shown through a thin opening between the curtains. Lois could just make out his boots in one hand. She blinked away the last remnants of sleep.
"What time is it?" With a pull of the chain, she turned on one of the bedside lamps, covering the room in dim light. She gasped at the sight before her. "Oh, Clark." Head to toe, he was covered in dried mud: his hair, his face, his uniform. She'd never seen him that dirty, not even after he'd delivered that woman's twins on the subway…
"I know." Not wanting to touch the beige carpet, he floated into the master bath and switched on the light, catching sight of himself in the mirror. He wasn't nearly as tired as he looked, but a good night's rest would definitely do him some good. By then, Lois had followed in behind and stood beside him. He leaned around her to toss his boots into the bathtub.
"How many this time?" she asked softly.
His eyes lowered to her shorter reflection. "I stopped counting after a hundred and fifty."
With her hand, she covered his where it rested upon the sink. "I'm sorry, Clark."
"Nothing to be sorry about," he murmured, looking down at his socked feet. Even they weren't clean anymore. The mud and water had soaked through and puddled into the bottom of his boots. "Even I'm not strong enough to fight Mother Nature. It's unrealistic not to expect casualties."
She followed his gaze down to his feet, then back to his reflection. "Doesn't make it any less painful." It sounded more like a question.
"No. It doesn't." She helped him undress, removing the cape from its place beneath his neckline as he removed his wet socks, flinging them into the tub with their maroon colored counterparts. Lois tossed the cape overhead to hang over the shower curtain. At least the outside of it was waterproof. The mud rinsed right off. The lining inside was a different story. Why Martha decided to make it out of wool she never understood…
It wasn't something she did too often, assisting him out of the suit, and only when he came home in the middle of the night, and, if she happened to wake up. It was something they both enjoyed, the intimacy of act, the unspoken metaphor of their life together. Usually it went on without a word and the night ended with the two of them falling asleep in each other's arms.
She was helping him out of the lower half when she glanced up at his filthy face, seeing the smirk there. "You're enjoying this aren't you?"
"Yes," he chuckled, adding, "I can see down your shirt."
Technically it was his shirt she had been sleeping in, one of the white ones, so big that it nearly hung to her knees. It also hung loose from her chest when she leaned over. Not the sexiest of sleepwear, but she had needed to feel close to him. "Well, enjoy the view; it's all you're gonna get tonight. Stink is not a good smell on you."
"Well even Superman sweats after a fourteen hour work day…sometimes," he added after a thought.
"Well, Superman needs a shower. Actually," her head flipped around and she looked behind her towards the bedroom, rising from the floor and grabbing his laundry from the tub. "Do that and meet me downstairs in about ten minutes?"
For a micro moment, worry flashed across his features but was soon replaced with curiosity. "Why? What's going on?"
She pressed a quick kiss to his lips. "No listening." He had only gotten as far as raising a brow before she was closing the door behind her.
He set about his shower, the day's grime swirling away down the drain. He only wished that the images left behind could wash away just as easy. The faces of all those people, parents and children trapped on the roofs of their homes, swept away by the rushing waters, the bodies he'd pulled from villages of collapsed buildings…He hadn't left until he was certain he had found every person whose heart still beat in their chest, until rescue workers had begun to recover the dead and no longer required his services.
Clark was just glad to be home. His family was safe at least. Jason had been sleeping soundly in his bed. And with a new toy, he recalled with a small grin. Ironically, the very thing that was keeping him from his son was the very thing the boy clung to when his father wasn't around. Which seemed to be a lot lately. And he'd already missed enough milestones in Jason's life…
That was entirely Clark's own fault, leaving, but now, now was different. He didn't have any more control over Krypton's destruction than he had the weather, but he no longer felt guilty about being away from them as Superman, not as much as he used to anyway. And it made the process of transitioning back and forth that much easier to deal with, knowing that now Jason and Lois also understood it to be a part of their lives. Some days were harder than others and despite the hurricane, today had not been one of them. In the beginning he had wondered, they both had really, if he would be able to balance being Superman and having a family, but for him, there really was no other option. He was not going to spend his life without Lois and Jason, and he couldn't not be Superman…Life was good to him, despite its difficulties.
Wrapping what Lois termed a 'super' large towel around his waist, he headed into their bedroom to get dressed, taking out the clothes he usually slept in, a t-shirt and sweats. It wasn't until he had finished pulling his shirt down around his abdomen that he noticed the new black and white photos hanging on the wall across from the end of the bed, centered inside the simple black frames Lois had bought on impulse last week. He didn't remember the moments captured within them; he was asleep in both. Nor could he tell when they had been taken. There were other times when he and Jason had napped together, whether in their bed or the boy's own, but they were all few and far between. In any case, his heart warmed at the sight, tracing Jason's features with a long finger. Stolen moments in time…He'd have to do something special with him tomorrow, continue teaching him how to ride his bike or something. The spitting image of his mother, Clark couldn't help but love the boy for that fact alone, even if he hadn't been his son. Speaking of Lois.
He made his way downstairs to find his bride of five and half months. Every light was off, except for the one above the stove, and it cast a yellow glow throughout the lower level of the house, enough so that he didn't bump into the furniture as he walked about the floor. He was about to switch to x-ray vision when he faintly heard her through one of the open kitchen windows. Who is she talking to? He found her alone under the deck, waiting for him. "Lois?" He spoke as if she weren't herself. "What are you doing? Who are you talking to?"
She grabbed his hand and covered his eyes, pulling him to his left. "No peeking." He couldn't if he wanted to. His vision didn't work that way. They kept moving until the thick grass under his toes turned to pavement. She had brought him to the driveway.
"Lois, what-" he started, but then she removed her hand from his eyes. Two of the loves of his life stood smiling before him in their pajamas; one of them had on tennis shoes and a helmet. His expression was a mix of surprise and wonder. "What's going on?"
Jason ran up to him, curling his tiny arms around one of Clark's legs. "It's my present, Dad!" He disappeared behind his parents and emerged seconds later with his bicycle. Clark turned to Lois, brows raised in mild shock.
"Yeah. We went to the park yesterday. He kept falling off, but he wouldn't let me help him. He wanted to surprise you." Missing Jason's early years still haunted Clark, no matter how hard he tried to put it behind him. By the time he had gotten back, his son had already overcome the most important childhood milestones from the first kick in the womb to the first day of school. As trivial as it may be to some, teaching his son to ride a two wheeler was all Clark had left. So far it was the only thing the two of them had shared. Richard had been there for everything else.
Jason hadn't quite gotten the hang of it; he had little control of the handle bars and kept veering to the left before he had to drop his feet to keep from falling. Clark clearly heard Jason's murmurs of "Man!" and "Shoot!" every time the boy stopped and started again, and fought within himself whether he should go help him or not.
Watching him struggle was beginning to be too much for Clark and he started to make his way forward, but Lois held him back, a gentle yet firm hold on his bicep. "Don't. Just watch."
Sure enough, a moment later, Jason straightened in his seat, heart pounding in his chest as pink knuckles turned white and the grip on the handlebars tightened. He turned the bike around and pedaled back toward his parents, determination and concentration frozen across his young face. He was not going to fall this time…
The two watched as he made wide circles at their end of the empty cul-de-sac. Lois had already seen Jason in action the day before. Upon Clark's astonished expression, she felt she should explain. "So far, it only happens when he gets frustrated or upset at falling over, but it seems to work." If he was paying attention or not, Lois wasn't sure, but she decided to let him enjoy the moment. His boy was riding a two wheeler. Their boy. She was quite proud of him herself. When they had gone to the park, he had been using his training wheels for the first hour or so just so they could enjoy riding together, then she had taken the wheels completely off at his insistence. With every fall, he had kept getting back up and now he was riding like a pro.
Before she had even realized it, Clark had his arms around her, the both of them dressed for bed, barefoot on the edge of the lawn, underneath the old street light hanging above their heads. Due to property lines, the neighbors' houses on either side of them were far enough away that they couldn't be seen through the thicket of trees that grew around the house. Its relative seclusion was the reason they had bought it. Superman's comings and goings had still gone undetected and tonight's little show hadn't garnered any attention so far, despite Jason's whoops as he rolled down the street.
They were content to watch him for a while longer, but it had begun to get late over an hour before. He'd only been riding for a few minutes, but Jason had quickly worn himself out. He rode back up to his parents, slipping off the side of his bike with a resigned, "Ok, I'm done."
They helped him put his things away, Lois parking the bike back under the deck and Clark removing the head armor, hanging it on the handlebars by the chin strap. He carried the tired boy inside, complementing him on a job well done and telling him how proud he was of him. Jason however hadn't heard most of it as he'd fallen asleep against Clark's shoulder before they'd even made it up the stairs. The last words he himself had spoken were "Happy Father's Day", muffled into his father's shirt.
Lois stayed behind in the hall as Clark settled Jason beneath his bed sheets, wondering what she did to get so lucky. A year ago she would never have pictured this sight, Superman and his son; she wouldn't even have wanted to hear the man's name, let alone believe Jason was his. Her life had been fine; she was satisfied with her relationship with Richard and was finally going to receive a Pulitzer, but now…this was more than she had ever asked for, more than she had thought she ever deserved.
Clark's back was turned when the first tear fell and the rest were gone before he reached her side. She thought she had hid them from him, but he always did know her better than she knew him. "What's wrong?"
How could she tell this man what he had done for her, what he was still doing for her? Words wouldn't do it justice either way so she took him by the hand instead and led him to their bedroom. Again, she found herself enveloped in his arms, her neck covered in his soft kisses. "Is this my other present?"
"No," she laughed and sniffed. "I'll use that for the next time I forget to get you one. This time I have real one. Stay right here." He waited on his side of the bed as she disappeared into the closet, reappearing a short moment later with a small gift box in hand. It was adorned with a bow with a bluish silver tint that held the lid and bottom together, but Lois carried it like its life depended on her making it to her destination. Her eyes began to water before she had even scooted over to meet Clark in the middle of the bed.
For a moment, she hesitated. Why, she didn't know. She'd waited two weeks to give it to him and the time had finally come. Maybe she just need to get the words right. She grabbed the box of tissues by the bed and pulled out a sheet, twirling it between her fingers as Clark maneuvered the box in his hands, trying to find the best way to open it. Slide off the bow or untie it? The latter seemed the best way.
Lois spoke as he tugged on both ends of the ribbon, the bow evenly becoming undone. "Our lives are anything but normal so I couldn't very well do this the regular way. It's too cliché." She knew right then he had no idea what she was talking about, but she pressed on anyway as he began to remove the lid. "Plus, with the way you found out the first time, I thought recreating it wouldn't be such a good idea."
Clark's focus shifted from the contents of the box to Lois, and he finally saw the teary smile her features bore. His heart raced inside his ribcage. "These aren't Jason's?" She shook her head no, biting her lip, tears trailing once more. He didn't know which part of her to touch first: her hands, her lips, her face? Somehow his arms found their way around her thin frame, embracing her as best he could in their sitting positions. "Are you sure?"
She nodded as he let go. "Doctor's appointment two weeks ago, remember?" He did. He also recalled that she had been grinning a lot that day… Sitting there with her watery eyes and red nose running, he couldn't help but think she was the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen, and told her so. "You say that now; just wait until we're in the delivery room."
It was his turn to shake his head. "Lois, you're always beautiful to me." Emotion mirrored in the way they gazed at one another, and if there was only one thing left to say, neither could find it in their voices to say it. Clark set the box aside as he drew closer, taking Lois in arm again, pulling her down onto the sheets, his lips meeting hers, sliding over them ever so gently as the wetness from their lashes mixed and made a home somewhere in the pillows below. This time it would be done correctly. They'd be together and he'd be there for everything, the first sonogram, listening to the heartbeat…yes, life was getting better and better.
Three AM came and went, yet Mr. and Mrs. Kent still lay awake in bed, Clark playing with his gift, yellow ducky baby booties, his fingers inside them, making them walk across the linens. "They're so small."
"Doesn't take long for them to outgrow them. One day you're buying booties, the next it's their first day of kindergarten."
Clark's eyes wandered over to where the photo of him and Jason hung on the wall. "When did you take those?"
"Hmm?" He pointed. "Oh. Yesterday. Couldn't resist. I have to print out smaller ones to put in Jason's room." He'd finally stopped playing with the shoes so Lois knew something was on his mind. "What?"
At first he was going to keep it to himself but decided against it. "Just wondering how we're going to pull this off, managing a marriage, Superman, and two kids."
"What if it's triplets?" Her face lit up with an evil grin. He eyes relayed what he truly felt about that.
"Yeah, my uterus didn't think that was funny either," she murmured, "but, Clark, whatever happens, no matter how many children we end up having, the important thing is, they'll be ours. And, yeah, it'll be hard, and we'll have to make even more sacrifices, but isn't that what makes life worth living?"
He thought about those words a moment. Though they sounded great, things were easier said than done. "Life's not all fairytales and fantasies, Lois."
"I know," she sighed, a faraway look in her eyes as she imagined what the future could have in store for them. "And I'll probably end up carrying the brunt of the household myself most of the time, but," she reached for his hand, the one that had been at play, and softly stroked the skin, "at the end of the day, you'll always come home, and that makes everything okay for me." She kissed his bare chest and settled back into her previous position against his side, waiting for his response. After a few seconds, he chuckled.
"I was just thinking, two kids in nine months. You move fast, Lane."
Laughing herself, she took the booties from him and dropped them somewhere behind her on the bed. "Shut up and kiss me."
An hour later when they had finally tired enough to begin to drift off, four whispered words lingered in the air:
"Happy Father's Day, Clark."
I hope you enjoyed it. Thanks for reading.
Now send me a review and make my day:D