Author's Note: My first Superman story! It's an AU ending of Superman Returns . . . I hope you like it. Special thanks to htbthomas for the beta!
Disclaimer: I do not own Superman or any of the associated media. No money is being made off this story.
Into The Dark
"And ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation." -- Kahlil Gibram
When the death of Superman was announced, Lois Lane did not cry.
Instead, she spent three hours arguing the upset medical staff into hysterics, insisting that they had made a mistake. After all, Superman was an alien; how could they judge his health (or lack thereof, but she wasn't going to think about that) with equipment made to measure by human standards?
Then they finally let her into his room to see him.
He was so, so still. That unsettled her; she couldn't remember ever seeing him so still.
His hair was swept back from his face (even that stupid, stubborn curl, as if the life had gone from it, too), showing off his strong features yet also giving him a childishly innocent look, one she had seen on Jason's face as he slept. However, Jason's expressions were constantly shifting, even in sleep. Superman's weren't.
He looked peaceful, too – even more peaceful than he had when she and Jason had visited two days ago. She reached out to trace the now-smooth worry lines on his forehead – and drew back in shock.
His skin was cold.
That was when she cried.
She cried tears of rage, and pain, and grief, and despair. She cried for him, for Metropolis, for the world, for Jason, and for herself. She cried until his hand, clasped tightly in both of hers, grew warm and the sheets he lay under needed to be wrung out.
Then, she climbed up onto the bed beside him.
She wasn't sure how long she lay curled against his prone body, unable to bear separating herself from him. Every so often, she would look into his proud, perfect face, imagine his deep sapphire eyes looking back at her, and burst into sobs all over again, wondering about what they could have had, and what they had been.
As she mourned, she listened to the doctors and nurses as they moved around the hall outside the door, hating them for being able to move, for being alive, when Superman never would be again. All too soon, the mayor arrived, and a discussion began on what to do with his body. One option was cremation, with an elaborate ash-scattering ceremony so the people could say goodbye; another was to have him ejected into space, like a sailor buried at sea.
Lois hated everything they came up with – she knew he would not want any of it. The problem was, she didn't know what he would want, either.
They did ask her opinion; after all, she was Lois Lane. No decision regarding Superman was made without consulting Lois Lane.
But she didn't answer.
Lois stood between Richard and Jason as Superman, in full regalia, was enshrined in a vacuum-sealed glass coffin, reminiscent of Lenin's in Moscow. A sad, haunting melody Lois didn't recognize filled the air as people filed past the open coffin to touch their hero one last time.
She watched as an old woman trembled violently as she brushed her fingers over Superman's cheek and though his hair. The crowd pressed her forward impatiently, and she stumbled away from the coffin, tears coursing freely down her face as someone else took her place.
Lois felt a strange urge to go after the woman, but she had melted away into the sea of black-clothed people.
And then it was their turn.
Richard lifted Jason into his arms, and the little boy reached over to give Superman a hug. Lois had to grip the edge of the coffin and force her knees not to give out.
"He's not coming back," Jason said sadly.
It wasn't a question, but Lois answered anyway. "No, baby, he's not."
She bent over and pressed her forehead to his for a long moment. Then, unable to stop herself any longer, she kissed his unresponsive lips, then turned and ran.
Lois hid in the back alleys until night had fallen and the crowd had disappeared. She tried to light a cigarette several times, but always heard his voice telling her she shouldn't.
Eventually, she made her way back to the square where Superman lay, guided by the street lamp that stood over the coffin. The coffin itself had been sealed earlier; now, she put both hands flat on the glass and just looked at him.
Lois's head snapped up. Standing across from her, on the other side of the coffin, was the woman she had watched being bullied by the crowd earlier that day.
"Hi," she replied hesitantly.
The woman traced a pattern on the glass beside Superman's head, as if wishing it was his skin she was touching instead. "You have a son, do you not, Ms. Lane?"
Lois nodded slowly. "Yes," she said, confused.
The other woman never took her eyes from Superman's face as her voice dropped to a heart-wrenching whisper. "Can you imagine having to bury him?"
Lois wasn't sure whether to be shocked or furious as the woman's hidden meaning caught up to her. "You think you're Superman's mother? His entire family died on Krypton; he told me that himself! I don't know where you get off pretending to be--"
The woman had seemed to shrink in on herself as Lois's voice raised, but now she drew herself up to her full height, eyes flashing. "And I suppose you think he just happened to survive the destruction of another planet and came to Earth fully grown, already knowing all about human society and perfectly ready to spend night and day saving us from ourselves. I suppose you think he learned manners from the moon and responsibility from the stars. I suppose you think – I don't know what you think, Ms. Lane!" She was crying hard now. She turned away and fled into the night, leaving Lois standing there in surprise.
Her gaze fell on a small, dark rectangle lying on top of the coffin. The woman must have left it there. She reached out and pulled it toward her for a better look.
It was a picture. In it, a woman and a little boy stood together, cheeks pressed together and smiling happily at the camera. The woman was obviously the one she had just finished arguing with, albeit thirty or thirty-five years younger, and the boy --
-- was Jason?
Lois blinked and took a closer look. It was hard to tell in the dim, artificial light, but she could now pick out a few subtle differences in their features. This boy's hair was black, as opposed to Jason's brown, and his face was a little less round than her son's. He was overall build a bit sturdier, too, from what she could see . . .
But his eyes were the exact replica of those she saw in her son's face every day, the exact replica of those she saw in Superman's face whenever she was lucky enough to see him.
Lois felt faint.
The next day, Lois strode into the bullpen only to find Perry and Jimmy cleaning out Clark Kent's desk.
She dropped her coffee. "What the hell are you doing!?" she shrieked.
Perry swept her into his office. A box of Clark's things already sat on the desk.
"I take it you didn't hear?" he said heavily.
"Hear what? Chief, where's Clark?"
"Lois . . . sit down."
"I'll stand! Where's Clark?"
Perry pinched the bridge of his nose. "During the New Krypton thing . . . he got crushed by a falling building. Died the same day Superman did, in the hospital."
Despite her earlier proclamation, Lois sank into a chair. Clark, dead? It couldn't be. He was always there, like a rock. Even when he'd been gone on that trip around the world, he'd been there. Well, not there, but . . .
"Go home, Lois," she heard Perry say quietly. He left the office.
She stared at the box on the desk, a frame peeking out over the edge. She walked over and picked it up.
It was the woman from last night.
She dug the picture out of the frame and flipped it over. A single word was written on the back.
Lois pawed frantically through her purse for the picture she'd found last night. Once she located it, she flipped it over.
Clark (age six) and Mom.
She had to sit again.
Clark was Superman.
Clark was Superman.
Clark was Jason's father.
How could she have missed this?
And she'd been so cruel to him. And to his mother. She was a horrible, horrible person. She needed another good cry-fest.
She got up and walked out of the office. "Perry," she announced, "I quit."
She went back to the coffin that night. Clark's mother was already there.
"I'm sorry," she said, simply and sincerely, handing over both pictures.
The older woman took them with a trembling hand. "Thank you." She looked at Lois for a long moment, then said, "I'm Martha."
Lois's stomach, already tight, knotted harder than she had thought possible. "The rest of his things will be sent out later this week."
Martha's eyes filled with tears, and she pressed her lips together. "All right."
They stood in silence, united by their grief, and stared down at the man beneath the glass. All Lois could see, now that she knew the truth, was Clark; Clark's cheekbones, Clark's jawline, Clark's nose, Clark's lips . . .
"He shouldn't be here," Lois said suddenly.
Martha looked up at her in surprise. "Pardon?"
She took a deep breath. "Mrs. Kent, I've got an idea, and I need both your permission and your help . . ."
Perry White eased into his chair, feeling old for the first time in his life. A manila envelope awaited him, no return address written on it. He frowned and opened it, then nearly dropped the papers it contained in shock.
The Farmboy And The Hero
by Lois Lane
The Farmboy was Clark Kent – adopted at age three by loving parents and raised in a small town in Kansas. He became a reporter for the Daily Planet.
The Hero was Superman – sent to Earth by his parents to escape the devastation that would wipe out his entire race. He became the saviour mankind never knew it needed.
Now, both are dead.
But only one has been laid to rest.
What few people even considered was that Superman was still a man. He wanted to be able to live as one. And as Clark Kent, he was able to. He leaves behind a mother who loved him with all her heart, and is predeceased by his father, who encouraged him to be all that he could be – including a superhero.
This article is important. Superman did not just belong to me, or to you. He belonged to his parents and the small Kansas town that no one could ever take out of him. As a world we will have him wherever he is, but his mother needs him near her.
If you think he should be reburied in Smallville, Kansas, beside his adoptive father, under the names of both Clark Kent and Superman, please, cut out this article and send it to the mayor's office. As one, we can give a grieving mother what little comfort we can, and know that whatever else he was, Superman was truly one of us.
Twelve Years Later
Lois stood at the foot of the humble-looking grave, gazing at the simple gray granite headstone. Though it proclaimed him to be the Superman legends were made of, the modest surroundings of the Smallville cemetery made it easy to overlook the inscription and wonder about the man beneath the suit.
Lois glanced around her. Jonathan Kent was buried to his son's right; Martha, broken after Clark's death, had died only two years after him and was laid to rest on her husband's other side.
The site to Clark's left was empty.
Every year, Lois made the journey to Smallville to visit Clark's grave. Jason usually came with her, but at nearly seventeen he had begged off, rationally pointed out that although the man was his father, he could hardly remember him, having known him for less than a week, and, seeing Lois grow upset, swore up and down that he would never miss another visit and would even come even after she passed away, if he could please go to piano camp (as Lois called it) this week. After many arguments and several rounds of tears on Lois's part, she had agreed to let him stay in Gotham. Unfortunately for her, Jason had not only inherited her stubborn streak, he had gotten Clark's patience as well. Plus, he was big enough that she couldn't actually make him do anything, and she'd given in before she lost the hard way.
"I ran into Richard at the airport during the stop in Metropolis," she told the grassy grave. "He's married now, did I tell you? He's got a daughter in kindergarten, and his son's two now, I think."
She settled onto the grass. "Jason wants to go back to Metropolis when he moves out. He says Gotham's too dirty. You never liked it much either, did you? Well, I couldn't stay in Metropolis – there were too many reminders of you – and Gotham had an opening in its newspaper staff. That's why Richard and I broke up, you know; because he didn't want to move. Worked out for the best, I suppose, since he told me today he never believed me whenever I said I didn't love you."
She paused to get her bearings, then kept going. "I wish I'd figured things out while you were still alive."
She stopped again. "It doesn't hurt that much anymore, you know? Losing you. You're probably in heaven or somewhere telling me that I should have gotten over you years ago, but haven't you learned by now that I like to cling to things?"
She sighed. "Sometimes I wish I still had Richard – or at least somebody. But nobody seems right, after you. I know you're a horrible standard, being way above all the human men, but I can't seem to accept anyone else, which totally pisses me off because who believes in that one true love crap, anyway? Certainly not me."
She looked over at the patch of grass beside him. "Who knows, maybe someday, like a couple decades from now, I'll buy that lot. At least it will make it easy for Jason, having both his parents in the same cemetery."
She was being morbid, which was her cue to leave for the day. But Martha Kent had left her house to Lois and Jason, and Lois had a week off. "I'll be back tomorrow. Not that's you're going anywhere, but--" She stopped and stood up.
"Tomorrow. Bye. I love you."
And she walked away, into the setting sun.