Notes: This is a rewrite of the final scene in Superman Returns. It has nothing to do with my story "Sunday Fathers", but heck, go read that anyway.
Many thanks to Barb for the inspiration - and, of course, for all of her kind words. :)
The words won't come.
The title is there, but the words of the story won't come.
She stares at the screen, fingers brushing the keys, frustrated and overwhelmed and above all sad - sad for reasons she can't and won't pin down and think about. But she knows, even without analysis, that she can't write this story.
The world needs Superman, yes. If ever that had been doubted, recent events have proven it manifestly true all over again. For her, though, it's no longer what the world needs. This story isn't about what the world needs. It's about what she needs, what her son needs. Who he needs.
Jason will - There are things - There are life experiences that only -
Jesus. She pulls her hands away from the computer and swipes at a tear. This is ridiculous. This is not a goddamn soap opera. She's a reporter - a Pulitzer-prize-winning reporter, dammit; nevermind what she won for - and she's the mother of a child who's been a medical rollercoaster for all five years of his life, and she should not be crying just because her son is half-alien and his father is in a coma.
Oh hell, she thinks, more tears welling up in her throat. It is a soap opera.
She gives up on the story and thinks about going outside for a smoke. But what she really wants is a way out from under this colossal mess, and no amount of nicotine can turn back time or fix broken hearts.
Instead she gets up, slings on a robe, and quietly climbs the stairs to check on her baby. His door is shut; the fingerpainted blob of a picture ("It's an elephant, Mommy!" he'd explained) hanging proudly on display looks ghostly in the dim light. She eases the door open and has an instant's clutch of cold fear -
- until she realizes the man standing over Jason's bed is wearing a red cape.
Which means... She doesn't want to consider all the things that it means, but her first feeling is relief. Her grip on the doorknob tightens reflexively.
Superman turns his head and looks at her, then glances back down at Jason's sleeping face. He looks, she thinks, happier than she can ever remember seeing him. Certainly happier than he's been since he's returned.
She hesitates for a moment before opening the door wider and stepping back into the hallway. He takes the gesture for what it is - an invitation - and follows her. Of course he shuts the door politely and carefully behind them.
"I didn't know," she starts, hushed for Jason's benefit, then falls silent under the weight of all the things she could use to finish that sentence. In the shadows, having him here alive and breathing seems almost dreamlike. Wonderful, but unreal. She stares at him, superstitiously afraid to look away.
"I know," he says, gently, warmly. He's being quiet, he's keeping a courteous distance, but joy flashes and dances behind his blue eyes.
She pulls her robe closer and thinks that at least someone has had good news out of this disaster. She tries to sound casual. "So you heard - when I came to the hospital?"
He shakes his head, rueful. "No. I thought you'd be at the Planet - I talked to Richard."
Pain twists through her chest, and shame, too, remembering the hardest conversation of her life: the one last night, where she had to tell Richard that his son wasn't, that their frail little baby boy had shoved a piano across the room with a flick of effort. It had been a long time since she cried herself to an uneasy sleep. She hopes not to repeat it anytime soon.
"I had to tell him," she says, feeling guilty all over again. As though she had confessed a sin to her fiancé, and was confessing another one now. "I wanted... to be the one to tell you."
"I know," he says again, no judgment or reproach. And there it is, the sin absolved, the mistake redeemed. The amount of forgiveness in this man amazes her. He looks at her with a carefully neutral expression. "Richard is a good father."
She starts to say something, changes her mind, bites down on her lip and walks downstairs. He stays behind her, boots soft on the carpet, red cape rustling slightly with each movement. She puts on a light and looks at him properly.
He looks good. He looks like himself, so strong and so confident that he's - No, not that he's modest about it; just that he doesn't notice it. He stands in her house and gives no indication that he's anything but a courteous man with a nice physique and a spandex fetish that shows it off.
You would never guess that here was someone who could pick up an island and throw it halfway to Jupiter - and to do it as it slowly, agonizingly killed him.
"I'm glad you're all right," she says past a sudden lump in her throat. "When I - when I heard it was going to be kryptonite... And then you didn't wake up."
"I'm fine now, Lois," he says, smiling at her. Warm and gentle: the sun breaking through after five years' worth of bleak, gray winter. "Thanks to you. Thanks to Jason."
It's too much. She still loves him so badly; it hurts too much. She blinks, looks away, and changes the subject. "Will he be safe?"
He nods. "I'll protect him."
"Good," she says.
He moves closer to her and says, "I would have protected him anyway. You know that."
"Because he's my son," she says. It's not a question.
"The last thing I ever want is for you to be hurt, Lois," he says, coming closer by another few steps. The courteous distance has vanished. Now he's near enough that she can feel, very faintly, the warmth radiating off of him.
"Then why did you leave?" she asks, frustrated and sad. And this time, she asks it the way she always wanted to: like someone with a damned broken heart.
He takes her hands in his and cradles them. The solid rough heat of his touch sinks into her fingers and seems to spread upwards, melting her resistance as it goes along. She should pull away. She knows she should. This is why she's in such an ungodly mess and it's sure as hell not going to help matters with Richard.
Instead she moves in closer. Tilts her face up, seeking the sun.
"You know I had to go," he says, gravely serious now. "To spend your whole life thinking you're alone, and then to find out it might not be true... I couldn't stay. But I should've said goodbye. I should've told you the truth, about who I really am. You deserved it then - and even more so now."
She has to swallow a few times before she can put up a weak smile. "Damn right I do," she says, and hates that her voice wobbles.
His hands tighten around hers. "It's going to hurt," he says, a flicker of - anxiety? fear? - crossing his face. "This... will change things. You may not want to know."
It is fear, and her heart jumps up into her throat wondering what could possibly be so bad as to intimidate the Man of Steel. She thinks, with a touch of dark humor, Whatever it is, it can't be any worse than discovering Jason's peanut allergy the hard way.
It can't be any worse than five years.
"I can take it," she says. Her voice stays clear and steady.
He looks her in the eye and holds the gaze for a long moment, long enough to make her think that no, he's not going to tell her anything after all. Then he leans down and brushes a kiss across the center of her forehead. It raises gooseflesh on every inch of her skin and makes her close her eyes.
"I'm sorry I broke your picture frame," he says, very softly, and the warm exhale of his breath on her face kindles a fire across her nerves. Then the sense of the words sinks in and breaks the spell.
Lois leans back, blinking and confused. Because Jimmy said that Clark had -
- that it was Clark who -
She has a flash of Richard's voice: How tall would you say Clark is?
Clark who was gone for five years. Clark who reappeared the same day Superman caught that wayward shuttle launch. Clark who broke the picture on her desk.
She looks at the man standing before her, still holding her hands - looks at those lovely bright blue eyes and the black hair and the gentle smile and sees them, this time.
This is not helping her sensation of being overwhelmed. She feels a little dizzy, like she might faint, and tells herself to wait until after she kicks his ass.
"Oh," she says.
"Hello, Lois," he says.