Thank you to phyrry for late nights, jammyjar for the Met, dealan311 for thoughts that just won't quit and everyone else for their patience.
Here's hoping I'm not losing my touch.
"You know Lois, we OCRed all this and have full-text database search-"
"I know, Bill."
"It's on microfilm at your building-"
"I know, Bill."
"Listen, this is how I do it, okay? I sit in the cold and the dark and leaf through this shit until I find what I want and that's it!"
"But just tell me the year-"
"Fine, fine," he sighed, "We close at eight," Bill stepped back from the door frame and moved away down the hall, but not before mumbling, "...don't know why I bother. We scan everything ever printed and she wants the damn Morgue..."
Lois rolled her eyes at the door as its hydraulic piston let it swish! quietly back into place. A silence like no other descended on the large room a moment later, and she relished her amusement at the fact that archives like this were called Newspaper Morgues. Noise was simply absorbed here, right into the sheaves and stacks, and away from human ears. It was indeed a stillness that reminded her of death, and while the acidic nature and cheap fibers of newsprint slowly flaked into nothingness around her, Lois felt there was no other place she'd rather be.
Lois didn't need to have Bill locate her folio; she knew exactly where the day she was looking for must be. It was in this volume, probably towards the middle, and it really shouldn't have taken her more than a minute of quick flipping to find the headline she was trying to remember. But, she let herself page through the months and weeks anyway, just glancing here and there at memories. Her name popped behind her eyes, still unfamiliar looking in print even after all these years.
Her hair fell back into the light and created a flurry of shadows on the page laid out before her as she settled back into what she had been doing a moment before Bill entered the room in a huff. Apparently no one told him anyone was down here, as this room was rarely used by the staff in the heyday of newspaper databases. The light shining out of her little sanctuary must have alerted him to a wayward electrical waste, and he was quite taken aback to find the Planet's star journalist peering at him over her glasses in the musty graveyard.
Bill had known Lois for about five years and she liked him well enough, but he was no replacement for the man who retired before him. Ethan Glassner, or the Undertaker as he insisted on being called, was born, drafted onto the same fated plane as Clint Eastwood on route to the Korean War, and apparently did nothing else until he found his way to this basement. That was, after all, the only story he ever told, and the only thing Lois knew about his early life.
However, the Undertaker had read every single daily edition for 40 years, and probably knew more about the world than any professor, politician, or mother of five that Lois had ever met. At least, the world as one paper covered it. He had favorite journalists and columns; used to be able to predict to Lois who Perry would fire, when, and why; and even claimed to have fallen in love with a reporter from before Lois' time, just by reading her every week.
This was a man who could bring a simple smile to Lois' face whenever she thought of him, and she did, every time she turned a yellowed page or threw open an over-sized folio. His spirit was strewn like ashes across these hallowed floors, swept up in the form of crumbled and flaking newsprint that would swirl every time she took a step.
The Undertaker had retired to Tahiti, "because that's what Gauguin had done," and was never heard from again. Lois liked it this way, because for him to have died or even just kept in touch until he faded away would not have served his memory properly. He needed to disappear to Tahiti just like Nixon had to open relations with China: there was no other way.
Lois found time to miss the man most especially when she had to deal with people like Bill, someone who was after just the words and not the paper of this business. There was something more sincerely real in turning these crumbling pages than in typing bracket dates into an advanced search box and pulling up keyword associations. Research was fast and specific nowadays, lacking all the serendipitous way-finding of investigation gone by.
Besides, newsprint has its own feeling. The way the planes of it catch the wind, how the edge of it could slip from your grasp, that crinkle in the fold that would only get worse before it got better. Here was the essence of journalism, in these retired tomes, resting here and slowly breaking themselves down. There was something about the paper itself that spoke directly to the words, the images.
A Wind of Change, by Lois Lane, an editorial on the reconstruction of the South Side.
Senator Anderson Shot in Carter Square, a news piece with eyewitness account of the event.
Tax Evasion as an American Problem, a research piece on international taxation issues by-lined with Clark.
Corruption in the Governor's House, an investigative piece by-lined with Clark.
An Interview with the Dali Lama
Sometimes it would occur to Lois just how successful she had become, just how many dreams she had managed to fulfill, and this positive affirmation could last her a month. She really was a world renowned journalist; people really did associate her name with intelligence, integrity, and the kind of trust in the written word almost nonexistent with flashy cable news programs and the Internet; she really could pull up cell phone numbers and the confidence of seven senators, fifteen Fortune 500 CEOs, and one king (Constitutional Monarchy).
And a lot of people really fucking hated her, and that was best of all.
Lois sat back as she turned the page, letting the light hit the banner headline and illuminate its muted impact, faded now and 'old news' anyway. A sigh escaped her mouth and she smoothed the paper needlessly, touching.
MYSTERIOUS METEORITE PLAGUES SUPERMAN, 'KRYPTONITE' HIS ONLY WEAKNESS
This was a page not likely to hang in the lobby, it was not often spoken about as a great exclusive; instead it was evidence of one of the greatest regrets in Lois' professional life. She stared at it sadly, thinking, and reached out for her ear buds without looking.
"Superman's bleeding..." the sound of running and voices, a little bit of shuffling as her old recorder was moved about in the rush.
"Did you see that?"
"Oh no, oh no!"
"SUPERMAN'S DEAD! HE'S DEAD!" A rush of voices following this panicked cry.
"LoisLaneDailyPlanetletmethrough!" spoke her own voice.
"I don't have time for you right now!"
"Officer wait! Excuse me, EXCUSE ME, Lois Lane, Daily Pla-"
"Get back Miss!"
"Damn," she sighed to herself. There was more movement, more unintelligible voices, and the sound of quick breathing.
Lois spotted a familiar face over by the police barrier, and tried to more forward past the throng of concerned onlookers just as an ambulance siren gave a few momentary wails behind her. People started to move as the ambulance idled forward, the EMT sitting in the passenger seat flicking the toggle switch with an impatient look on his face.
"Harry! HARRY! Officer Rhymes, please!"
Harry finally caught his name on the wind and turned in her direction.
"Harry, what the fuck is going on?!" she panted as she outright elbowed a woman in the ribs ("OW! Wh-" "DAILY PLANET MOVE!").
"Lois, I really don't think it's a good idea for you to-!"
She made it up to him, her arms now reaching up above her head in an awkward sidling position. People were still pushing to and fro, and Lois was shoved forward a little and up against the barrier. She took this opportunity to try and peer past the line of officers. All there was was an expanse of empty street; the entire block had been cleared back to where there was (apparently) a second line.
"Harry let me past! What happened?"
"We're not sure..."
"You're not sure? These people seem to know something!"
"Lois," he said a little quieter, "Superman is unconscious and losing... blood."
Lois could actually feel the muscles in her face go slack, realization and some kind of shock making its way through her.
"What?" she let herself stand there, the crowd pushing as one as the ambulance finally approached the barrier to Lois' left, "But...that's Superman!"
This was really not a high point of critical thinking, and Lois of the Present rolled her eyes at the stacks of newspaper folios around her.
"I know who it is, Lois, but he just went down..."
A need to act seized her whole body, and Lois looked left and right, thinking. There had to be some way to find out more and quickly, the curiosity and concern possessing her. Suddenly a voice came across the microphone and Lois was found in the crowd.
"Lois! You would not believe what I had to go through to find you and did you know that-"
"Jimmy, your camera, give it to me," she insisted quickly, straight to business.
"Okay..." he looped the strap over his head, "Can you tell me what's going on?"
Lois grabbed the camera and tried to point it past the police line, zooming in with Jimmy's good lens.
"Did you hear any more of that phone call after I left?"
"Um, the last thing I heard Chief say was him asking why there was a hazmat team."
"A hazmat team?" she said wonderingly.
Just then Lois spotted suited, hooded figures moving slowly. They appeared to be carrying something.
"Harry? A hazmat team?!" she asked again, now sounding dangerous.
Lois waited as they moved into full view and were revealed to be transporting some kind of vessel. It looked like a giant sci-fi cooler, with the same radioactive fallout symbol found on antiquated bomb-shelters scattered across the US. Two figures were holding some kind of monitoring devices and sweeping the area in wide arcs.
"Harry... what the hell...!"
"Would you mind actually hitting the shutter, Lois?" came Jimmy's thinly veiled impatience from next to her.
"Whatever caused this, it's giving off radiation. That's all I know. Superman is bleeding from the head and I don't even know what hospital they took him to."
"Took? The ambulance just got here!"
"That was for two of our people, I mean citizens, um, wounded by debris. They medi-vacced him out alread-"
"THEY WHAT? Fuck Harry, do you realize how many phone calls I could have made by now? Damnit, come on Jimmy!"
The tape went silent and Lois waited, worrying her bottom lip as she sat in the stillness, sick at the memory.
"So what happened to you?" her voice was low, competing with the swishing static the recorder usually picked up when she was on her balcony.
Superman gave her an exhausted look as he sat on her patio chair, forgoing his usual standing vigil out across the city for a moment to rest. She thought he looked like a blood donor who gave one pint too many.
"I believe you know something already. I heard your voice at the hospital."
"Yeah, um..." Lois struggled with the question still burning in her throat, and just gave up: "What happened to you?"
"The 'mineral' that was removed from the scene... it's called Kryptonite-"
"But the scientists said they'd never seen-"
"I call it Kryptonite. It is, quite literally, pieces of my home planet, radioactively charged and toxic. This radiation is apparently harmful only to me, or at least I think so. Whomever is about to test it should be able to let us know."
This was met with silence, save the static.
"Your Achilles heel," Lois stated simply, with awe.
"My Achilles heel," he confirmed with a sigh.
He spoke a moment later, a ghost of his usual self, "Have you read much Ovid?"
Lois gave half a laugh, "No, at least not lately. And I don't really remember half of college, so it's risky to assume."
There was a pause.
"I need to go, Ms. Lane, and rest..."
So it was.
Lois could remember slamming into the conference room the next morning, interrupting the morning brief in mid-sentence and demanding the front page. Perry had been excited, as no fewer than 19 hours had passed and his Superman connection came through with a headline. He spent the afternoon spouting rhetoric about the next great exclusive of the year and no one gave it a second thought, looking down with pride at the evening edition headline that Lois was contemplating now, all these years later.
It was yellowed, its edges fraying in the early stages of acid migration, the dim light giving it a sad look.
Lois hit play.
"What's wrong?" she laughed, "Aren't you feeling better?"
"You really are forgetting your Ovid," his voice twisted in a rare darkness, sending a pain through her temple, "'The deity himself directs aright / The venom'd shaft / and wings the fatal flight.'"
Lois could remember her throat getting tight, cold fear pooling in her stomach. She couldn't place the reference immediately, but the tone in his voice left no doubt that something was terribly wrong. Normally she would have found his allusion amusing, maybe commenting on his melodramatic brilliance. But realization dawned on her like water wicking through a towel, and a very old fact came to mind:
She was Apollo, guide to the arrow that slain brave Achilles.
It was, to this day, the greatest regret of her professional life. The moments after Superman said these words, some hint of bitter betrayal hidden somewhere in his voice, was one of the most eye-opening experiences Lois could remember from that time in her life.
She had been so excited to push the envelope, expose the secrets, and make the headline that it had never even occurred to her what the consequences might be. In the larger picture, she had just sabotaged the most positive and wonderful thing her species had ever known. In the personal picture, she had blatantly used the trust that Superman put in her to further her career (which was not unheard of until this point) without even considering him (which led her to question her very motivation in life). It was such a blatant mistake as to be truly mortifying.
All the journalistic enthusiasm in her could not compensate for having handed the enemies of the world their greatest weapon. It was a breach of the ethical code that she and most of her peers adhered to: a promise to minimize harm. She had only maximized harm! And had been so blind to it that it seemed impossible in retrospect.
And he had called her on it. He was upset. It was the first time in either their friendship or their "professional" relationship that Superman had ever snapped at her, had ever let anger show in his eyes. It shamed her deeply, and made her wince and bow her head.
It was with a feeling of great disgust that Lois watched the world in the days after. The subsequent run on Geiger counters and books on astrogeology would have been comical if the implications hadn't been so dire. Suddenly every criminal element in the world was researching, stockpiling, and learning how to drill hard metals. It pushed the breath out of her chest every time she thought about it, even years later. Seeing its direct effects was even worse; every time someone used Kryptonite against Superman from then until recently was like a blade in her heart. Sometimes the thought would pass uninvited through her mind, even in the midst of completely unrelated context, and seemed to truly define haunting.
Two days later Lois was "invited" into Perry's office, only to come face to face with two very serious and very official looking men.
"Ms. Lane, we have been authorized to inform you that information pertaining to the alien Superman is now considered a matter of national security-"
"-and that as such, any major revelations regarding his physiology, major strategic movements, or personal vulnerabilities are of interest to this agency."
"Which agency?" Lois snapped back.
"The CIA," the other man cleared his throat and went on, even as Lois must have looked apoplectic with incredulity, "As you know, this newspaper published highly sensitive information about the alien known as Superman and a substance that appears to negatively affect him. This information has since created a frenzy in the criminal element of this country and the world, and both indirectly and directly threatens national security."
Lois opened her mouth to speak, but quickly faltered once faced with the accusation in that statement. Her personal guilt in the matter made her hesitate, and she gave a sign of weakness by glancing at Perry, now also sitting silent and ponderous.
"Superman represents a powerful force in this world who keeps enemy nations in check-"
"He keeps you all in check," Lois cut in with ire.
"-Indeed. You appreciate the dynamics here, more so than any of us I imagine. We are not censoring you, Ms. Lane, but we are here to strongly suggest a need-to-know policy regarding information pertaining to Superman going public. You could then benefit from a symbiotic exchange of information with certain national agencies, and the understanding that members of your staff (and staff across the country) who are considered risks will be monitored by those agencies. I am sorry to say, however, that the first person on that list, Ms. Lane, is you."
Perry sat forward in his chair, looking quite suddenly angry again. Lois held up her hand and he blew the breath out between his lips in a puff.
"I'm not going to say another word about Kryptonite, or anything that... important, about Superman. You don't have to bother with your monitor. Don't waste tax money," Lois spoke in a flat tone, all the fight gone from her as she finished without humor.
"Despite your assurances, Ms. Lane..."
"We went through it with Desert Storm and for all of the 50s, so don't bother. We shut up in the trenches and didn't tell anyone Hoover was a cross-dresser. We get it."
"An interesting comparison, but-"
"She won't say anything, gentleman. I guarantee it. Once Lois says she's quiet, she's quiet. That woman keeps a secret like a monk, and I believe her on this one."
Perry shot Lois a significant look. She looked down at her feet and gave an angry shake of her head, trying to rid herself of this new guilt so that she could focus.
"Very well. We will not actively monitor you, but who can help but read Lois Lane in the Daily Planet? It's become an American Institution."
Being told that she was an American Institution by the CIA struck Lois dumb for a second.
"Are you-?" Lois started to say-
"Thank you, gentleman," Perry cut in, "You know I am aware of our rights, and you know I have a legal staff and two hundred years of precedent behind me. I know you're not censoring us, but I also know you want to, and can't. Despite knowing that, I will read your damn conclusions and then think about involving my staff," Perry's voice seemed to boom even when he was speaking in a normal voice. Lois automatically winced whenever he opened his mouth, even on the rare occasions when he had whispered to her.
"The press and the government have cooperated in the past, and for once," Perry gave another sidelong look at Lois, "I am inclined to agree."
The men looked back and forth between them, and then back and forth to each other. Lois raised an eyebrow at the length of these stares when finally, one of them spoke like the Oracle of Delphi itself:
"Can you validate our parking?"
She never did say another word, nor had anyone at the Planet. Someone on the west coast went public a year later with some investigations into Superman's biochemistry and ways it could be manipulated, and they too fell dead silent afterwards. At home it was a relatively easy policy to accept, as no one but Lois ever managed to get Superman information and then it was safe in the hands of a personal oath. None of the staff would have had the balls or the disrespect to try and steal a lead or do some investigating anyway... there was no more important unspoken law in Metropolis journalism than the fact that Superman belonged to Lois Lane.
This cachet was a powerful one, and in fact had been one of the reasons it took her so long to write The Article. Even though Why the World Doesn't Need Superman did not expose any fatal weaknesses, it had still seemed like something she shouldn't publish. The promise had gone unspoken for so long and she had hated him for all the time anyway, yet she still hesitated.
Then suddenly one day she had realized he was most likely gone forever, and it stopped mattering.
It figured that Lois had finally published and the timing could not have been worse. Superman came back through the clouds just as she had finally felt absolved of her obligation. Her only reward for all her longstanding good intentions was a Pulitzer for an opinion piece that seemed to shame her in front of Superman as much as the Kryptonite story did years earlier. This time, though, it was funnier. Lois actually found time to laugh at her bad luck on this one, and just threw it up in the air for the universe to deal with.
Her hand came up and pulled a wire, popping the earbuds out of her ears in one quick tug. The silence in her mind got a little bigger.
It was getting late, and there was much to do. She took stock of her surroundings and decided that she could probably leave these volumes out if she came back soon enough to continue. She sought out two slips of paper and left markers in the three tomes she had open, taking care to mind their spines as she closed them. A few minutes later she had packed her purse, and now her gears had to shift.
As Lois flipped the switch and shut the door, her mind turned to what she was heating up for dinner tonight, what book she was reading Jason, whether or not she was annoyed with Richard and why. Somehow she could manage this transition between one life and another, and she let her thoughts move and twist.
Where her mind really was, though, was with Superman. She wondered if he would take her drunken request to see him tonight seriously. Well, she knew he would. Maybe she was really wondering what he must think of her and her blithering.
Well, might as well go for broke. Strawberries and cream for dessert.
"So, here we are again," Lois smiled at a descending Superman, spreading her arms wide in invitation to their conversation. She stood staring up at him from the roof of the Daily Planet, a familiar sight now getting far too familiar.
"How are you feeling, Lois?"
His voice was soft and warm, like the air around them. Lois watched as he touched down and then spoke.
"I'm fine, I never really get-"
"-hangovers, I know. I had just wondered if that had changed since I've been away," he approached her on silent feet and then settled into his contrapposto.
Lois quirked her smile and crossed her arms, "Believe it or not, I'm still invincible."
Clark realized she seemed in an exceptional mood considering the general state of affairs and a definite lack of sleep. Sometimes he wondered if those hangover vitamins she claimed to have patented really did work. Invincible?
"Yeah, so am I," he deadpanned at her.
A creeping grin replaced her expression, a measure of her amusement as the statement sunk in. She didn't have anything to say in response.
Clark considered this his first point in the tally of their conversation. Lois had a habit of engaging whomever she was talking to in a verbal battle of wits, which usually resulted in her outsmarting them and learning whatever she was really after. The few people who could hold her in check, himself included, were the only ones who knew what it was actually like to converse with Lois Lane.
"But you are feeling better?" he insisted, his chin dipping down with the question, emphasizing a critical glance of his eyes.
"Yes, I'm fine," she insisted back, the repartee familiar.
"How is Jason?"
This quiet question made the world a whole lot larger, and the dim light of dreamtime lifted from their exchange. The conversation exploded outwards in an arc of reality and Lois let out a sigh, taking stock of them whispering on a rooftop in the midst of the world's greatest city, hiding like children in the sight of a million people. She tried to ignore it and plowed on.
"He's fine, a bit bored in the summer because he really does like school. Otherwise he's really excited about his birthday and Mommy Time."
He raised his eyebrow at her.
"It's a thing," she threw out nonchalantly, flipping her hand out with it.
"Yes. Well, I'm looking forward to it, too."
She nodded and smiled, wondering if he was talking about his time with her, but he continued quickly before she could act: "I meant to ask you something, actually. Should I um, bring a present?"
Lois' face belied amused curiosity.
"Humph. Good question. If you had intended to you can, but bring it later... I meant to half remind and half tell you that you're invited after the party..." she stammered slightly, her smile wavering.
"I remembered and understood," he smiled and gave her a sideways look, quickly losing courage in the face of her shy demeanor. Lois could manage to cut right to the heart of things with determined ferocity at the same time that she derailed you with delicate grace. It was truly entrancing and difficult to navigate for one as entranced as he.
"I figure about eight o'clock," she finished the topic awkwardly, "and if there are no world emergencies, could you come a few minutes before the party and circle high until I see you?"
Lois continued to feel the eyes of the windows around them, never blinking, ever seeing. This was a partly residential neighborhood of penthouses and historic hotels. It was amazing how many conversations they had had on this spot in the advent of digital cameras. How is it that no one ever managed to sell an image of these conversations to a media outlet? Here, perched perfectly against the backdrop of one of the world's greatest symbols, the Daily Planet globe: a star reporter and the most significant exclusive on earth.
'What about hyperbolic microphones?' she wondered to herself just as Superman's question shot right over her head.
"Huh?" she grunted, taken aback by her own wandering.
"I said, 'What did you want to see me about?'" he asked softly, trying to catch and hold her attention this time. He was apparently used to her bouts of distraction.
In a flash of irritation, Lois was back on point. Biting her lip in a sign of self-depreciation she rallied her thoughts and attempted to answer him.
"Listen, this is no way is meant to reflect on our conversation, but could we go somewhere else? Private?"
"Somewhere private?" he mimicked at her, confirming her fickle nature.
"Has it ever occurred to you that we get video of spontaneous and random events every day, and yet long and highly visible conversations like these," she gestured back and forth between them, a habit of hers that prevailed no matter what the situation, "never make it on the news or the Internet? Look!"
Lois swept her arm out in a graceful, arcing movement, bringing attention to every glittering pane of glass and dim light in the grove of skyscrapers around them. The Daily Planet was a historic and landmarked building, the centerpiece of the view, and they were illuminated by a giant globe.
Lois' hand ended up back on her hip, content that her point had been made. Clark gave an interested look around and came back to give her a curt nod.
"Right," he chirped out.
A second later she was flying. All she could manage to do was grab onto whatever of him was in reach and hold on, despite the fact that his grip was like a trap against her back. Lois pinched her hand to her side to secure her purse, despite the fact that she wore it across her body. Instinct is a powerful thing.
Her arms finally found purchase around his neck just as everything stopped dead.
Lois gasped in surprise, her adrenaline only then prepared for the speed and the shock, and everything was back to normal. She looked around quickly, still gripping Superman and stunned.
"The lighthouse?" she laughed breathlessly.
"The lighthouse," he confirmed with a smile in his voice, and they began to descend towards the platform.
The Covenant Lighthouse hailed from Metropolis long-gone colonial days, when it served the aptly named Port City, and was now located on an eroded jetty a nautical mile away from the entrance to the modern harbor. Funds had been diverted from the Save Our History Campaign during the last state budget, and sadly its light did not shine.
There was, however, a large airplane beacon on top.
Lois peered at Superman under the flashing red glow and considered his question. What had she wanted to say? Metropolis loomed gloriously before them, its mirror image reflected, blurred and silky like an electric painting, growing backwards across the sea.
"He's becoming more like you by the day," she said quickly, pausing as if that was all she could manage, and then moving on.
"I don't know whether it's because now I know so I'm automatically watching, but really," she continued, taking a breath and stepping closer, peering around with a paranoid air out of habit, "I honestly think," she whispered, looking straight up into his eyes, "the real difference is the fact that Jason is learning how better to communicate and control himself. He's growing up and we're going to need to tell him soon," her voice took on passion with these last words, searching his face.
"I know we've covered this, but it was theoretical-"
"Lois," he tried to interrupt.
She looked down suddenly, forcing her hand, finishing her statement "-but I just want to say that you're allowed to say no this time even though you agreed already because I understand if you-"
"Lois," he cut in, "I take my commitment to Jason very seriously," he insisted to her, catching her attention and seeking out her eyes again.
"I take both of you very seriously," he finished, his voice deep and hollow, "Just tell me when and where and I'll always be there."
He must have convinced her, because a few seconds later Lois relaxed and took a step away from him, the space opening up between them like a blanket ripped off in a cold room. Clark watched her as she turned back out the city. He wondered fleetingly whether she was going to reject his protective words, for protective they felt. He still couldn't believe what he was thinking, never mind what he was capable of saying. He just wanted so desperately to be honest and he could be honest about this.
Lois could feel her thoughts shifting as she looked out across the harbor.
"I know I've shrugged you off in the past," Lois cleared her throat awkwardly, "but my pride would have cost me my life more times than I'm willing to admit. You've probably counted for me. I realize you got me through some pretty crazy shit because you just would not leave me alone on a story, damn," she sighed in renewed aggravation at this old pebble in her shoe. Lois took a second, and shook her head free of the thought, "So thank you."
Clark considered her, watched as her hair twisted and twirled in the wind, how her skin glowed a soft red under a red sun, and was heartbroken.
Lois thanking him had less impact than he would have expected, it being an old pebble for him, too, and instead he became very quickly agitated. Liquid hot guilt started swirling its way down his spine towards his stomach, and Clark wanted to bow his head in shame.
"For all the good I've done you, I've done you more wrong," he said quietly.
"Neither of us knew you were a father when you left, do not bother to blame yourself over that."
He was intelligent enough to realize the truth in this statement, but he shook his head none-the-less.
"There is much I have done wrong, Lois, and every day it feels like there is more to face," he spoke in a tone that she hated, a tone that reminded her of disagreements and painful moments gone by. Very recently she would have been happy even just for that.
Lois thoughts drifted sadly to the side, wondering about how he was going to handle this after all. She had enough faith in him left to have really hoped for the best between him and Jason. Now she was starting to worry about the depression it caused him.
"Lois," he spoke as if gasping on the word.
Her head spun around quickly. The wind caught her hair and it whipped back, thankfully cooling off her face and as she now stared directly up at an anxious looking Superman.
"I really want you to understand that I intend to do as much as I possibly can for you and Jason; I will tell you about my powers when I was a child and let you know what to look for and how to help explain it. I will be there when you tell him these things, I'll answer any of his questions and I will get to know him and protect him. We both realize the limits; you know I can't spend a lot of his life with him, and you have-"
"Richard. I know," she said hurriedly.
"Yes. But I will give you both everything I can manage to give."
He answered her doubts, right there and then, stepping up to the challenge with determination and grace. Her motherly instincts managed to loosen their restrictions on her hope a little and calmed down along with the rest of the world.
Lois smiled a little, picking up on a need for humor to break the tension.
"I haven't handled it very well so far," she smiled, offering the amusing truth. All she could manage to think of was throwing recorders and nearly being sick in her living room.
He smiled down at her, "You've been doing fine."
"Ah, well then it's only when you're around."
"We do manage to be quite awkward with each other, don't we?" he braved the honesty with her.
Lois had hoped he would keep to the spirit, and wanted her turn to floor him.
"There is obvious tension between us, a lot of unanswered questions, and suspicious loads of guilt. And not even recent guilt, since we left everything unresolved for so long that it's still fucking us up. So listen, you need to trust that I'm going to help you, too. I understand this has only been a matter of weeks for you and you're obviously still fucked up over a lot of shit and reeling. So I'm on a moratorium of hating you, mostly because I really do know that you wouldn't have left like that without a damn good reason. You were either well convinced or justifiably insane."
Superman blinked at her, and she tallied a point in their conversation for rendering him mute.
She decided to push it, the honesty very addicting.
"Superheroes don't really get to have children, do they? It's only costumes and well-timed interventions, right?"
"Something like that," he answered back in a monotone, staring down at her and obviously straining against his feelings.
"Well, you have a child. Let yourself celebrate."
This seemed so impossible to do, but in that moment, with Lois' quiet voice urging him on, he felt a short, electric burst of joy burst through him. It was as if this was the last thing he needed before he could really accept himself as a father without regret. Even if it only lasted a moment or two.
He blinked again. His eyes were shimmering in the glow of the beacon, and Lois realized they looked violet under the red light.
...Unfortunately, Lois could also ground him, and force the joy from his mind.
"I'm sorry that I told the world about Kryptonite," she said evenly, still looking up at him.
He was shocked, "What?"
"I never actually said it. I never actually apologized to you, even though we both knew how sorry I was. How sorry I still am..."
His mind reeled back years, a lifetime ago, and the shift was disorienting. He tried to think of something to say in the silence.
"Someone would have done it, Lois, there were witnesses and there would have been more-"
"I still shouldn't have written it, damnit!" her voice rose in swift anger, her emotions rearing, "Some secrets need to be kept!" she quoted him from earlier in the breakroom, surprising him again.
"I didn't even think, it's ridiculous," she gestured with these words, "How fucking young was I to make a decision like that? I have never published harmful information about a source or an exclusive ever! And it wasn't even a scandal, it was a FATAL FLAW!"
Clark winced, even though he was used to her introspective rants. This had really haunted her. He wondered where it was coming from now. Their conversation from earlier? He had assumed that was about Richard and Jason. Perhaps he had struck more than one nerve today.
"Just fantastic journalism, really. 'Minimize harm?'" she asked him sarcastically, treating him like a Greek chorus in her soliloquy.
He remained silent.
The fight seemed to leave her as she looked at him looking at her. The silence gave way between them, opening up their ears for the ocean. There came a shudder beneath them, a wave crashing on the reef, and everything seemed to leave on the wind.
Lois spoke quietly. "I'm sorry. As a professional and as a friend."
"Forgive, and you are forgiven, Lois."
"That's it?" she scoffed, offended to be denied her deserved lashing.
"What do you want me to say?"
"How you really feel!" she spat, as if explaining it for the fifth time, bouncing up onto the balls of her feet in agitation.
"You were selfish and short-sighted," he countered back at her, forthright and sudden.
Lois went back on her heels, and stared up at him. His voice left in the wind, but the words stayed.
"...and I was just as guilty of other sins, Lois. We were both young, and we learned. I don't know if you'll ever really know this, but I do understand why you did what you did. And I bear witness to the change that you undertook as a direct result. I don't so much forgive you as realize that the crime is no longer valid..."
"And 'The Article?'" she baited again, thirsty at his rare insight.
"I understand that, too."
"I don't believe you."
Clark did the only thing he could think to do, and shrugged. The simplicity of the moment was genuine.
Lois seemed to accept this. She turned and put her forearms on the lighthouse railing, looking back out to Metropolis. They both listened to the ocean for awhile.
"I have a non sequitur for you," Lois deadpanned into the silence between them.
He didn't move from staring out across the harbor as he responded, "Shoot."
Lois reached down into her purse, locating what she was looking for with rare ease. She pinched it tight against the wind and held it out before them both and framed by the city.
"Photos of Jason." Lois fanned the photos, exposing them like cards, "One for you... and one for your mother."