AN: Thanks to htbthomas for her wonderful beta! Part of the 12 Days of Clois challenge on livejournal. This story is AU but I feel it's closest to movieverse. Hope you enjoy.
Clark entered The Daily Planet office with a sense of anticipation. Today was his birthday. Well, it wasn't his real birthday; technically it was the anniversary of the day he landed in Kansas and subsequently became the date he filled out on forms. His family celebrated his birthday but he was home schooled until high school – his mother was too afraid of anyone accidentally discovering what he could do – and it wasn't until eighth grade that his father put his foot down, much to Clark's excitement, and insisted that he go to high school like a normal kid. But by that time it was "uncool" to make a big fuss about birthdays. So he had never had a real party.
Last year his birthday passed without notice, as it normally did. This year, somehow Jimmy had discovered the date – he must have checked the Daily Planet records – and had planned a surprise party for Clark. It really wasn't much of a party – birthday hats and cake in the break room. It wasn't really much of a surprise either, considering he had overheard Jimmy making all the arrangements. He was excited nonetheless.
Usually, he was so good at hiding his emotions, but apparently today he couldn't contain his smile.
"Someone's happy about something."
"Good morning, Lois."
She came over and sat against his desk, sipping a cup of coffee. Clark smiled back at her.
"I still can't figure you out, Kent. You're the only person over the age of 21 who's actually excited about getting older."
"Who told you it's my birthday?"
"It's all Jimmy can talk about. You do know he's planning a party for you?"
"Lois!" Clark exclaimed disappointed that she was willing to spoil the surprise.
"I think he's even more excited about it than you are."
"Why'd you have to tell me?"
"You didn't already know?"
"I did…but I was planning on acting surprised."
"That's a relief. I'd really have to question your reporting skills if Jimmy could keep a secret from you."
"Is that a compliment?"
"It is your birthday," Lois got off the desk. "Consider it a present."
"Thank you. I think."
"Don't get used to it, Kent."
Lois' demeanor toward him had been somewhat cold as of late. It was Daily Planet policy to pair new reporters with a more seasoned partner until they learned the ropes. He had dutifully served under Lois for more than a year. It was only when Lois had insisted to Perry that Clark no longer needed "babysitting" that Clark finally set out on his own. Since then, he had managed to snatch several stories and bylines, scooping Lois and establishing himself at The Planet.
He could tell that this completely unnerved her.
Before she had patronized him, writing him off as a country hick. Now she was outright mean toward him. He definitely preferred this. At least now she respected him. And he knew that her animosity was out of frustration: frustration because she still hadn't figured out how the "country rube" had managed to out-do her.
Clark knew better than most that people are wary of things they don't understand and so he forgave her behavior and learned to tolerate Lois' quips and cool attitude toward him.
It did occasionally get to him, but now and again there would be a short respite, like the sun peering behind the storm clouds, and he was reminded, as he just had been, that Lois really did respect him and care for him.
The morning had passed uneventfully. He tried to listen to the events of the city – and not to Jimmy's last minute party plans. It was a quiet day in Metropolis – almost suspiciously so.
A little after noon, Jimmy had finished decorating the break room and had started rounding up people for the party. He stopped by Lois' desk and Clark watched from the corner of his eye.
"Lois, it's almost time."
"I'm busy right now."
"But it's almost time for that thing we talked about. You know…"
"You can get started without me."
"Not now, Jimmy."
Jimmy had lost enough arguments with Lois Lane to know when to give up.
He turned from Lois in defeat and instead focused his attention on her old partner.
"Hey, Clark. I was wondering if you could take a look at some photos of mine?"
"I'd be happy to."
"OK, great. I'm just going to go lay them out in the break room. Could you meet me there, in like, say… two minutes?"
Jimmy hurried away toward the break room, presumably to make final preparations.
Clark leaned back in his chair and glanced over at Lois. "So you're not going, huh?"
"I've sung happy birthday before."
"Look, I don't have time for this right now."
She looked up after a moment, perhaps out of guilt, and added, "None of the people in that room really know you. They're just there for the free cake."
"It's nice all the same."
She sighed and rolled her eyes, "Does your optimism ever cease?"
"Suit yourself," he replied as he got up from his desk. "If you want, I'll save you a piece of cake."
It was on his way toward the break room that he realized he had stopped monitoring the city. There had been a new development. From what he could gather from the various police radios there was a hostage situation taking place at a building down by the docks.
He looked longingly toward the room with the x-ray vision and saw everyone waiting for him. The look of anticipation on Jimmy's face…
He knew what he had to do. He turned around and jogged back to Lois' desk.
"Lois, tell Jimmy I'm sorry, but something just came up."
Without waiting for a reply he headed toward the elevator. He heard Lois call out after him.
"Wait! Where are you…?"
He touched down only a few seconds later at the site of the crisis. It was a building by Metropolis harbor which appeared to have once been a factory but had recently been turned into office buildings. He approached a group of four police cars parked outside.
"What's the situation?" he asked
The cops were startled at first but after recognizing him, they immediately began to cooperate.
"It's one guy acting alone, as far as we can tell," the senior cop replied. "He's holding thirty-one hostages on the seventh floor. He's armed and says that the building is rigged and he'll trigger it if we don't meet his demands."
"He wants to meet with you… face to face. Say's he'll release the hostages then."
"What's your plan?"
"We've called bomb squad and were trying to secure the perimeter."
"Inform your teams that I'm going in."
"Wait. It's gotta be some sort of trap."
He flew up, hovering in mid-air, so that he could survey the building and weigh his options. The floor that had been hijacked happened to be lined with lead. This had Luthor written all over it.
Luthor had recently, and somewhat surreptitiously, discovered kryptonite. He had been experimenting with the most effective ways to use it against him. So far he had tried melting it into bullets. But they were ineffective. When they traveled from a distance and at such a high velocity, the kryptonite didn't have enough time to sufficiently weaken him to penetrate his skin. The shots had been painful, but they ricocheted off him, like every other bullet, and he was able to back away from the kryptonite relatively unharmed, leaving only a small bruise behind. That had failed on two separate occasions, so he doubted Luthor was going to try again.
Clark wondered what he was up to this time.
He listened as the police radioed down below. They didn't seem to have a better plan. Clark decided that the best bet was to confront whoever was holding the hostages, get them out of the building, and go from there.
He sped through an open window on the seventh floor and found the hostages and their captor. The hostages were sitting on the floor with their hands behind their head. The captor was a tall man in his late twenties, wearing a bullet proof vest; he held a gun in one hand and what appeared to be a detonator in the other.
He heard the murmured whispers of hope coming from the captors as they saw Superman.
"Release them," was all that Clark said as he cautiously approached their captor.
"Everyone up!" the gunman screamed at the hostages. They were reluctant. Clark kept his eyes on the captor's every move, careful to see if his fingers headed for the trigger but briefly nodded in the directions of a few of the reluctant hostages.
"You heard me," the armed man continued, "You can leave."
"Use the stairwell," Clark instructed. "Careful."
He listened as the captors made their way down the stairs. He waited, watching the man in silence. He stood ten feet away, not moving. There was fear in his eyes. Clark waited, watching the trigger, ready to speed at a moments notice. He knew that from this distance, if he timed it right, he could probably snatch away the detonator before the man had time to react. But he didn't want to risk it. He'd wait until he had confirmation that the captives were all out of the building and safe.
He also suspected that the gunman might have kryptonite on him and was therefore hesitant to get too close.
He could hear the police radio in that the final hostage had made it out safely.
"What do you want?" Clark finally asked the gunman.
"I just wanted to talk…" His voice wavered and his heartbeat, which had been quick before, was even more rapid now that he stood alone in front of the Man of Steel.
He didn't respond.
"Why don't you put down your weapon," Clark replied as he slowly approaching him.
"No, I don't think so."
"Who put you up to this?"
Again, no response. He saw him gulp and tighten his grip on the detonator. As far as he could tell the man didn't have kryptonite on him. He hadn't felt the effects of it. He dared to go a little closer.
"You don't have to do this… no one's been harmed." He took another step. He saw the man's eyes dart to the ceiling right above him. And then his finger pressed down on the trigger. Before he had time to react, a trap door from above – which must have been made out of lead – opened, releasing a fine, green dust.
He was taken aback with weakness and fell to his knees. It burned his skin as it settled on him. Even worse, it was in the air, and he felt it inside his lungs. Usually it weakened him from the outside, slowly eating away at his strength with searing pain that radiated from the closest point of proximity. This time, it was coming from within as well. He coughed, trying to expel the dust, but his body was already weak. He'd never felt it attack him like this before where it sapped him of all strength so suddenly.
As he fought to stay conscious, he could vaguely hear the gunman making a call, but he was unable to hear who was on the other end.
"It's done… yeah… no, it's like he's passed out or something. I can't believe it. Whatever that stuff is, it worked… so what's next? I held up my end of the bargain. Hello? Hello?"
And then he heard the explosions and felt the building begin to come down around him. Clark remembered gathering his last remaining strength, darting toward the man and covering him to shield him from the falling debris. He remembered falling and feeling the building collapse on top of him. And then everything was dark.
Pain radiated through his body. Clark coughed meekly and then opened his eyes. He twitched suddenly from surprise and the shock of not knowing where he was. Then he remembered the kryptonite and the explosion.
As his eyes adjusted, he realized that he was trapped in what appeared to be a small pocket in the wreckage created by two of the support beams of the building. The gunman, the man who had released the kryptonite upon him, was huddled a few feet away from him. He could barely see him in the darkness.
He coughed again and when the spell had stopped he realized his legs were beneath a large piece of metal weighing at least half a ton. He was trapped. And he was just now appreciating the toll that the falling debris had taken on his body in its weakened state. Thankfully, the kryptonite dust seemed to have dispersed in the collapse, but the weakness persisted. His every muscle felt bruised and beaten and he could feel the little bits of the fine dust in his lungs, eating away at him from within.
The man seemed scared by his newly awakened companion. It looked as if he was trying to back away as far as possible but there really was not very far to go.
There was silence. They both appeared to be considering their options now that they were trapped together. While Clark felt exposed in his weakened state, alone with the man responsible for it, he figured he was going to have to talk to him eventually.
"How long have we been here?" His voice was hoarse as he asked it.
The man stared at him. He wondered if he could even see him in the darkness. Perhaps realizing that Superman was in no state to take out his wrath upon him, at least not at the moment, he answered nervously, "About three hours, I think."
"Does there look like there's any way out?"
"I don't think so… Can't you get us out?"
"No," Clark sighed. "Not at the moment."
"I thought you were dead."
"Sorry," he replied somewhat facetiously.
Another five minutes passed in silence before the gunman spoke again.
"What was that green stuff?"
Like I'm really going to explain my mortal weakness to you, he thought to himself.
Clearly, whoever put him up to this left out a large amount of information. Clark didn't reply. For so long he had tried to keep kryptonite and its effect on him out of the public knowledge.
The man must have understood from his silence that he was not going to tell him what it was.
"Is it poisonous?"
"To me," he finally decided to answer. That seemed a fair question. "It shouldn't affect you."
Then Clark realized he was unsure if the man had sustained any injuries during the collapse. Normally he would use his x-ray vision to check for broken bones and internal injuries but his vision, like his other powers, failed him now. "Are you hurt?"
"Me?" The man seemed taken a back by the question after all that had happened.
Clark laughed slightly under his breath. There was no one else around. Somehow, in the delirium of pain, this seemed funny to him. "Yes, you. Are you alright?"
"I'm a little banged up. But not as bad as I should have been…" Clark could tell from the way the man trailed off that he recognized Superman had saved his life.
He muttered in relief, "Good."
There was more silence and Clark took the opportunity to figure out his next move. He tried to move the metal that his leg was caught under but he couldn't lift it. He was coming to the conclusion that they might have to wait to be rescued. That was assuming anyone was looking for them.
For now, he needed to focus on regaining his strength, which would be near impossible without the aid of sunlight. While his body was still weak, it didn't feel like it was being ravaged by kryptonite anymore, so his current exposure was minimal and that was a good sign.
The man in the corner seemed somewhat more relaxed now. Perhaps because he knew Superman was incapacitated. Perhaps he was grateful that Superman had not died. Perhaps he was happy just to have someone to talk to after three hours alone in the dark.
The man mustered enough courage to continue the conversation. "I didn't think anything could hurt you. I mean, the TV reporters, the newspapers, they made you seem unstoppable."
"I don't consider it wise to have my weaknesses broadcast across America."
"I won't tell the guy I'm working for about this. I can make something up. Say it didn't work."
"I appreciate that." This man seemed to be telling the truth, perhaps he was sympathetic toward Superman since he had saved his life; Clark also knew that it was not good advice to support lying to Lex Luthor. "Don't be foolish. Luthor will know if you're lying."
"That is who you're working for…?" For a minute he hesitated to think who else might have knowledge of kryptonite's power as well as ready access to it. Through the delirium he struggled to keep straight what the man had said and what he had surmised.
"I don't know. He never gave his name."
"Lex Luthor is the man you're working for and he won't hesitate to have you killed."
"But he's going to use what I tell him against you."
"I have a better chance against Luthor—" At that moment he coughed heavily and they both seemed to wonder if that was really true.
"I didn't know he was trying to kill you."
"No…that's way over my head. I didn't even think it was possible. I was just supposed to lure you here, confront you, press the little button. The voice on the other end said he would deal with you from there."
"And you trusted him?"
"I didn't have much of a choice…"
"I had a debt, a gambling debt. The people I owe, well, they were going to kill me. But they put me in touch with the voice on the other end, Luthor ,or whoever. Said he'd pay off my debt if I did this. I didn't know he was trying to kill you. And I still don't know why he blew up the building."
"Wait. You didn't set off the explosives?"
"No. I didn't even think the building was really rigged. Whoever the guy is, he knew I was still inside. Was he trying to get rid of the evidence?"
"Luthor wouldn't leave evidence."
"Then he was trying to off me…so I couldn't rat on him?"
"Maybe. More likely he was testing me to see what I could withstand. You were expendable."
This was the first time as Superman that he had talked with anyone so candidly. He had always tried to maintain a stoic and detached demeanor when he wore the suit. Once he had gained the world's trust, he wanted to maintain an image of inhumanity. It helped him do his job if people saw him as invulnerable and impartial. To show humanity was to show weakness that could be exploited or manipulated, but it could also lead people to suspect his other life. In this sense, Superman was just as much an act as Clark. He needed to be seen as the alien protector, sent here only to aide and do good.
There was only one person who he wanted to see Superman's humanity – a certain brunette reporter who he suddenly couldn't get out of his mind. If only he was back at The Daily Planet sitting at the desk next to hers…
He was feeling a bit stronger now and ready to make another attempt to lift the metal from off his legs. "I'm going to try and get this piece of metal off me. Watch out." He grunted and was able to pick it up just enough to slide out from under it. When he released it, it made a loud thud and kicked up dust from the rubble.
He was breathing heavily from the exertion. He'd have to take it easy for a while before he could do anything else comparable.
"I'm sorry," the man in the corner pleaded. "I didn't know this was going to happen. I was only supposed to lure you here…And I almost didn't go through with it. He, the man, Luthor, whoever it was, pushed up the start date a week. You see, today's my birthday and I thought that it was bad sign. But I didn't really have any other options."
"Today's your birthday?"
"Yeah, I'm turning 28."
Clark couldn't believe the coincidence. That was exactly how old he was turning today - at least on the records. His parents had guessed that he was about one year old when he landed, so the following year they celebrated his second birthday and so on.
He laughed, coughing in between. "Happy birthday."
The man laughed back. "Thanks."
Clark felt a certain attachment to him now. He really seemed to have been used by Luthor.
"How long do you think they'll put me away?"
"I don't know. You held people hostage but didn't harm anyone. If you cooperate with the authorities perhaps they'll be lenient."
"I hope so," Clark replied.
"You know, you're nothing like I thought, Superman. It's like you're a real person." Then the man then added, "I'm Jeff, by the way"
Suddenly Clark could hear something above them.
"Do you hear that?"
His power must be returning. He could hear people removing debris from on top of them and he could catch glimpses of the workers with his x-ray vision.
"They're digging us out."
Neither of the two spoke. Perhaps now that they knew they'd be rescued, they were each trying to deal with the impending ramifications. It probably was just setting in to Jeff that he would be carted away to jail.
Clark knew that when he emerged there would be questions. Like Jeff, the world had previously thought of him as invulnerable, and they would be wondering why he had been trapped for hours. Over the last two years, he had worked to gain the confidence and trust of the world but he had also worked to maintain the image of invulnerability. Since his emergence, crime had been cut drastically, and most people recognized it was pointless to attempt any illegal knowing that he could swoop down and take on anyone or anything. This prevention was as much protection as any he could offer. After today, he knew there would be many people to challenge him.
Moreover, he knew that when he emerged, he'd be vulnerable. He'd be weakened if Luthor or anyone else wanted to attack. And somewhat ironically, he also feared the press. He was usually able to fly away after only saying a few words. He'd feel so exposed, standing there, bombarded by questions and reporters. He knew first hand how brutal they could be.
"Hello!" someone called down to them.
Jeff heard it this time too.
"We're down here!" Jeff yelled back.
"Is Superman with you?"
Clark muttered, out of frustration, not necessarily for Jeff to hear, "No."
"You don't want them to find you?" Jeff asked him.
"Not like this…"
"Sit tight. We've got rescuers coming," the voice from above yelled down.
Clark tried to stand up in the small confined space. He faltered slightly but then gained his bearings. Light had begun to stream in through the cracks between the rubble. He could tell it was artificial light, though, and he realized dusk had fallen.
As the rescuers got closer he was able to make out more of what was going on outside. It was a media circus. He could easily count ten helicopters hovering over the scene.
He examined the wreckage around him, looking for a way to dig his way out without compromising their current precarious niche. He grunted as he tried to move another steel beam. It just barely budged. He tried again and was able to move it little bit further but as he did, several pieces of rubble became dislodged. He grabbed Jeff, spreading his cape around him and shielding him from the falling debris. It wasn't much, but he decided he couldn't risk bringing down all of the wreckage, especially when there were rescue workers that would be endangered and he was only at partial strength.
He was breathing heavier as the panic of being up top, exposed and unable to fly away, had set in.
Jeff, realizing the debris had stopped falling, safely crawled out from under his cape. Jeff also seemed to sense his anxiety.
"You don't want people to see you," Jeff concluded.
"I'm vulnerable right now." He paced in the small space, head ducked. "And there are so many people out there…"
Another large portion of debris was lifted and they could now both see two rescue workers about twenty feet up. It wouldn't be long before they were rescued.
Jeff cupped his hands and screamed out toward the workers, "Hello!"
"Don't move, we're coming…" one of them screamed back.
"I've got Superman. I'm holding him hostage."
"What are you doing?" Clark mumbled to Jeff.
"Trying to help you."
He screamed out again, "I'll only release him if you clear everyone out. No media. No helicopters."
There was no response, but Clark's hearing was coming back. He could hear them relay the instructions over the radio.
"We're complying with your demands," the workers called back.
"You didn't have to do that,"
"You saved my life. And I don't like to owe people debts."
"Thank you," Clark responded with true sincerity.
Half an hour later, they were being lifted out of the wreckage. Jeff emerged first and was promptly handcuffed before being examined by the paramedics. Then the rescue workers helped lift Superman to safety. He felt simultaneously humiliated and appreciative. He was not used to needing help.
As one of the workers pulled him out, he asked in astonishment, "What did he doto you. I'm mean, how…"
Clark didn't respond. Thankfully, one of the police officers, the very same one he spoke with earlier in the day, signaled to everyone to clear out and give him space.
He stood a moment bent over with his hands on his knees. He breathed the open night air and even though it was dusk and the sun had almost set completely, the few rays felt unbelievably refreshing. He noticed that the airspace was clear and that the crowd was kept back a considerable distance. He was sure that there would still be footage of him like this but at least he had some space for the moment.
He could feel his body regaining strength but not nearly as quickly as he would have liked.
The cop who had instructed the others to clear out approached him cautiously, "Are you alright?"
"I will be…"
He seemed not to know what to say, "Should I get a medic?"
He must have looked terrible.
"No," he insisted. They can't help me.
"That goddamn terrorist," he cursed. "I don't know what he did to you but I'm about ready to give him a piece of my mind."
"He didn't know what he was doing. He helped me down there," Clark insisted, "Please, when this goes to trial tell them to take that into consideration."
"Are you serious? That guy trapped you in there and took down the whole building…"
"He wasn't the one who detonated it…there's someone else behind this." He repeated, "Please, testify for me and tell them that he helped me."
The police officer looked at him with disbelief but nodded, "OK."
He took a few more deep breaths, gathered up his strength, and prepared to fly. He hoped that he had enough power returned; he couldn't stand there any longer with the police gaping at him and the flashes of photographs from the distance.
And he needed more sunlight.
He bent his knees to push off up into the air. He willed himself not to fall. It was amazing, but taking off was the hardest part. Once he was in flight his body almost drifted toward the sun.
The air was thinner up in the uppermost stratosphere but it had never been noticeable to him before. His lungs still burned from the kryptonite but as he hovered there, he felt the warm rays replenishing his power.
It was almost three in the morning when Clark Kent returned to the i Daily Planet /i . He had spent more than two hours in the upper reaches of the atmosphere absorbing the unfiltered sunlight. Afterward, he returned to his apartment and called his mother – who, like everyone else, had heard about the ordeal on the news – and assured her that he was fine. He showered and fell onto his bed. He only allowed himself to sleep for an hour.
There were things he had to take care of at work that couldn't wait. On top of all his other troubles he didn't want people to be suspicious that he coincidently shirked his assignments the very same day that Superman was incapacitated. He also didn't want to get fired.
The office was quiet but not completely dead; there were still a handful of people scattered around the office working and the cleaning crew was vacuuming an uninhabited corner.
As he walked toward his desk, someone came up from behind him.
He couldn't remember the last time he was genuinely surprised by someone's presence. His mind and body were not themselves right now; he hadn't noticed her at all. He jumped as she touched him lightly on the back. It was completely in character with Clark Kent but this time he wasn't faking or exaggerating.
"Woah, easy there cowboy."
He recognized the sweet sound of Lois' voice.
"You startled me."
"The morning edition already went to print," she informed him.
Oh, Lois, you live and breathe this paper.
"So then what are you still doing here?"
"I knew you'd be back. Had to make sure you didn't sneak something past me and into the morning edition."
"So you were worried about me upstaging you?"
"Face it. I'm onto your little game, Kent." She then took notice of his disheveled appearance, "Are you feeling OK? You look like crap."
"It's been a long day." He collapsed into his desk chair.
"You were at the building explosion, weren't you?"
"I've got to figure out who your source is. I mean, I thought I'd gotten to everyone at Metropolis PD. But your guy has to be really high up. You knew about it almost the instant the story developed."
Clark remained silent. He interlaced his fingers and put his hand up toward his mouth, trying not to give anything away in his face. He loved these games with Lois. She would stare him down, trying to figure out what he was hiding. He played along, staring back and her – daring, hoping that she would look beyond the glasses.
"Fine. Don't tell me." She threw up her hands in defeat. "You know, I didn't see you there. I must have arrived half an hour after you. And I was there the whole time."
"I was there, believe me." He then added so she wouldn't be suspicious, "You probably just didn't see me in the crowd."
"It worries me."
"What that insane man did to Superman? I don't understand how…"
"Someone higher up is responsible."
"You think it's Luthor?"
He was reminded that she really was an amazing investigative reporter, even if she had yet to figure out his secret. "What makes you say that?"
"I can't prove it yet, but I've been researching the company that owns the building. It looks like a subsidiary of Lexcorp."
"Is that so?"
"If Luthor knows how to hurt Superman…" the pain in her voice was palpable. "I'm worried about him, Clark. I'm worried for all of us."
Her concern for Superman touched him. In that moment he wanted to tell her everything, to confide his own fears as well as tell her that when he was trapped and weak, his thoughts were constantly of her.
"Listen to me going on about Superman. We can talk about that in the morning. I'm sure that's all anyone will be talking about."
"I know," he replied, worried about the repercussions from today's events.
"Today should be your day. Or I guess yesterday. You know what I mean… Happy birthday."
Lois' chilly disposition seemed to melt in the late hours of the night. Or perhaps she was more amenable to being kind to Clark Kent when no one was around to see it.
"I don't know how I'm going to make it up to Jimmy."
"He'll get over it. I just can't believe the vultures at this paper ate all the cake without you. Which is why I got you a little something. Stay here."
She came back holding an open box of pizza with several candles placed on top.
"It's cold now. They stop delivering at 2."
"You ordered this for me?"
"I told you, Kent, I knew you'd be back."
She placed it down on his desk and lit the candles. "I absolutely will not sing for you, though."
He stared back at her, "I can't believe you did this for me?"
"Blow out the candles already, Smallville."
He had spent the day poisoned by kryptonite, buried under a collapsed building, and his body was still racked with pain. Tomorrow he'd have to deal with the impending fallout as the world discovered that Superman was, in fact, not invulnerable. But here, in this moment with Lois…he had never had a happier birthday.