"Go upstairs, Jason." Richard commanded, trying to make his voice sound as calm as possible.
"But…" The boy began to protest.
"No, buts. I'm sure you still have some homework to finish. I'll be right there in a minute. I just need to talk with your mom." Richard said.
"Oh… grown-up talk?" He was a smart kid, no doubt about that. After all, he was the son of two reporters.
"Yes, honey." Lois said, her voice nervous and soft. Jason must have felt something was wrong, but he knew that when his parents needed to talk, he had to wait. It was the rule of the house. Slowly, he went up the stairs until his parents heard his bedroom door close behind him.
Lois stood there, looking away, not wanting to confront Richard with this. She wasn't ready yet. In her mind, she had pictured telling him one day… that day was definitely not today. In her defense, she had already made the decision to tell him. It wasn't like she would keep the secret forever, unlike Clark pretended to do.
Richard walked back and forth, not knowing how to approach the subject, but seeing Lois evading the conversation even more, he had to speak up.
"When did Jason throw a piano?" He demanded to know, "Did you know about that?"
She nodded. "At Luthor's yatch. He saved my life."
"And you didn't bother to tell me this?" Richard asked, so offended that he didn't bother to ask why he had thrown the piano or how it was that the action had saved Lois's life.
"I was going to tell you… but it was... difficult and..." She said.
"What's difficult is explaining to me why you told me you didn't love Superman when it's obvious you did, or else Jason wouldn't be here, would he? And I mean, even if you had lied before… knowing that you had his child. Man, Lois… that's really pushing it."
She started to cry quietly now. She knew it was fair that he was angry, but in her fantasy world, she wished everything she had done would be forgiven, just like Clark expected everything he had done be forgiven, too.
"He left, and I didn't know if he would come back and…" She began.
"No. I asked you when he was back. I remember it clearly. I asked if you were in love with him and you said no."
"Please understand, Richard. It was very hard for me. It is very hard for me and when he came back I was confused and angry. I decided I wouldn't have anything to do with him when he showed up again."
"Lois, Jason is his son!" He raised his voice. "How would he stay away knowing that!?"
"Please keep your voice down, Jason will hear you." Lois warned.
"Why? Because he has super-hearing, like his dad?" He was using sarcasm, something Richard rarely did.
"No." Lois replied. Then, she reconsidered. "I don't know. And I understand you're upset and I know I lied to you. But, I love you and I was happy with you and I didn't want to change that." Was happy? She heard her own words in her head.
"But everything did change, Lois, can't you feel it?" Richard sighed, sat down on the couch, almost like giving up. "I knew it when you jumped into the ocean to save his life. That moment I wondered if you would do that for me. I know I would… but it made me think if you loved me enough to save me as you saved him."
"You know I would, Richard."
He shook his head, smiled sadly. "I don't know. Lois," He raised his eyes to meet hers; they were starting to fill with tears, too. "Jason is not my son… do you know… how that…?"
Not being able to continue, Richard lowered his head, trying with all his might not to cry in front of her. "I'm sorry." Lois said, feeling the worst she had ever felt in her entire life.
"Do you love him?" Richard asked, this time, he did not turn to look at her.
"I love you, Richard, I-"
But he simply shook his head again, "No. That's not my question." He faced her, finally. "Do you love him? And don't lie to me. You can't."
Lois stared at him for the longest time, biting her lower lip, her tears falling silently down her cheeks. "Yes. I love him." She dried her cheeks with the back of her hands. "I'm sorry, Richard."
"No. No. Don't apologize. I know better than anyone that we can't chose who we love." He smiled again at her, now more relaxed. "I should have known."
"It's not like that, Richard… please, understand..."
"What is it to understand, Lois? You are the mother of his child. You love him and I'm sure he loves you… everybody knows that. There is no place for me."
"No, buts…" He stopped her just like he had stopped Jason a few minutes before. "I don't want to be the guy you settle with, Lois. I couldn't live like that. And believe me, I would try… but I just know it wouldn't work. Not for you, not for me… and not for Jason."
"But, Jason needs you." She protested.
"Not like he will need his father." He told her, now totally understanding his position. "Clark Kent is a good man. The only fault I saw in him was how naïve he was… but now that I know who he really is… I can't find anything wrong with him. I want to, but I can't. Damn it." He buried his face in his hands, Lois just stood there, in the same spot she had remained since they had sent Jason to his room.
"I don't know what to say, Richard." She finally said.
"Nothing. You don't have to say anything." He stood up, walked passed her. "I'm going to go check on Jason."
With that, he left. Lois stood there in the living room and once she heard Jason's door open and close upstairs, she let it all out. She cried and sobbed. She was confused and it hurt her that she had hurt Richard.
So immerse in her crying, that she didn't hear Clark walk behind her. "Are you all right?" His baritone voice startled her. She jumped and quickly tried to clear the tears from her red face.
"I – I didn't hear you come in."
"I used the back door. I didn't think you'd mind." He looked perfect, standing there with his blue suit and red cape. "Where's Richard?" He asked, then turned to look around the house. Lois noticed his eyes narrowing, and then suddenly stopped in a spot. He was looking straight into Jason's bedroom, she knew that.
"I guess you know where he is." She said.
Clark immediately turned to look at her, his face red. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to… do that. Old habits, I guess."
She nodded and finally moved to sit on the sofa. She felt tired, emotionally, not physically.
"I'll go change." He said. Taking his clothes from where he had left them, he walked to the guest bathroom. Part of Lois wished he wouldn't come back from there, that he could just disappear. Actually, she wished that everything around her would disappear and she would be left alone with no problems or decisions to make.
But that wasn't possible and some decisions had been made. Clark, even when he took his time, eventually came out of the bathroom. His glasses still in his hand, his hair disheveled.
"The wound is almost closed." He announced. "I'm hoping it won't last another 48 hours and then I'll be home free."
She stared at him, tears drying on her cheeks. "I still don't know with whom I'm more comfortable talking to." She told him.
"Well, it's just me, so…"
She disagreed. "It's different. The relationship I had with Superman was different from Clark. With Superman, I felt like a woman. I felt like I was talking to someone who had it all under control and could put me back in control of my own life." Clark listened quietly. "With Clark, I felt relaxed, like I could be myself and I had someone that wasn't perfect, someone who just liked listening to what I had to say." She narrowed her eyes, almost like studying him. "So, as you can see, it's difficult to know… who I'm really talking to."
"Well, I can tell you for a fact that I am Clark Kent. I was raised Clark Kent, I went to school as Clark Kent. So most of what I have told you about me as Clark Kent is true. I didn't lie to you about that. Please believe that."
"But you're not really shy and clumsy, are you?"
He considered his options. "Not clumsy, no. But I am a little shy." He smiled. "I could never ask the girl I liked in school out on a date. I only had like two or three friends at school and I wasn't considered one of the cool kids, I was always the geek. Those parts of Clark that you know are real. Superman… well, that's just pretend." He seemed to find that amusing. "If I don't pretend to have everything under control, I don't know how I could handle all that happens around me."
"So what we had together was pretend?" Lois asked, a bit hurt.
"No!" He jumped, his eyes wide. "I love you as Clark Kent, as me. But you didn't pay attention to me… and when I saved you that first time and you saw a different part of me that you liked… well, I just took advantage of that."
"That's not fair." She said.
Lowering his eyes, he apologized once more. "Sorry."
Lois sighed; it was all really simple, not really complicated. In front of him was just a man. With some faults and problems like everybody else had and some that nobody else did. He was an alien with super-powers. In truth, he only wanted to fit in and help at the same time. She considered how difficult choices must be for him. She also considered how difficult it must have been to live with a secret like his. Was he always afraid someone would figure it out? If they did, was he afraid he wouldn't be able to live a normal life? Did he want a normal life?
"So…" She said finally, "The truth is that Superman doesn't exist, right?"
"Well, he's me. He exists. He's just a part of me. He doesn't have a past, so I don't think I could have much of a life as Superman. I like being myself much more." He explained.
"But you're not. You also pretend to be a different Clark Kent at the office."
"I have to, because I don't want people to figure out who I am. Makes sense? It's still better than the other option."
Nodding, Lois indicated she understood. Suddenly, out of the blue, she changed the conversation. "Richard… found out you're Jason's father. His biological father, I mean."
Clark froze, staring at her, wanting to know more about it. How'd he find out? How'd he react to the news? How…? He had been so busy replenishing his energy that he hadn't overheard anything. "And…?" He asked, inquiring to know more.
"It hurt him." Lois said. "A lot. See, he thought…" Stopping, she bit her lip again and thought where her next words would lead the conversation. "He thought he was the father."
"Did you think he was the father?" Clark asked her, even though he feared the answer.
"No. I knew he was yours." She said. Before Clark could say anymore, she continued. "But you weren't here, and what would happen to our son if people knew he was Superman's son! I had to make a decision. And since I met Richard right after you left and nobody knew I was pregnant yet and I…" slept with Richard.
"You told him Jason was his to protect him." Clark completed the sentence.
"I didn't say he was, I just, never told him he wasn't. Clark, please understand. I was afraid something would happen. I don't know what, but something. And I didn't know what to do. I was scared at first and everybody knew I didn't date anyone! The only man I had eyes for at the time was… Superman." But she cocked her head. "… well, and you. My partner. I think that, to everyone, if I was ever intimate with someone, it would have been you."
Clark wanted to smile at that, the thought of meaning so much to her without the suit made him happy. But he just listened, waiting for her to get it all out. It was the healthy thing to do. He knew now that Lois knew his secret, that keeping something like that from someone you cared about, was wrong.
"Thanks, Lois." He said.
"I guess it would be believable to tell people Jason is really your son, not Superman's."
"Which is the truth." Clark offered a half smile.
"It is." Her mind now drifted to those passionate nights. She remembered the first time Superman had come into her apartment, leading her hand to the back of the suit, where she found a zipper. It had surprised her to find something as earthly as a zipper behind the suit, but she had lowered it with no problem. The cape had fallen once the suit was down. For the first time, she had seen how human his body looked. It was perfect, not alien at all.
If only she had seen Clark naked one time, she would have figured out they were really the same person. But every time she made love to Superman, there was nothing else in her mind. She knew that was where she wanted to be. Not with the superhero, but with the man. The man that, conveniently, was standing right in front of her, revealing he was more human than she could ever have hoped for.
"I missed you, Clark." She said, very softly, not sure she had wanted him to hear it. But he had super-hearing; of course he had heard her.
He seemed taken aback, not believing what he heard. "Really?" He asked innocently.
His smile was sweet and handsome at the same time. Without his glasses, he looked wonderful in his three piece suit. "I missed you, too. A lot." He remarked.
Clark heard someone coming, his head moved slightly to one side. He regained his composure, cleared his throat and shifted from one side to the other.
"Hey." Richard's voice was heard. "Feeling better?" He asked Clark.
"Yes, much better. Thank you." Clark confirmed. "The wound is finally healing. I think the food from this morning and the sun was what I needed." Richard nodded as he heard his words. "Sorry to bring all this trouble."
"No problem." Richard's forced smile made everybody uncomfortable. He turned to Lois, "Jason is ready to come down."
"Oh, well… I guess he can." Lois said.
Richard then turned to Clark. "I guess you'll be happy to see him." Clark smiled weakly. "He's a great kid. Now I know where he got it from."
"Richard…" Lois began.
"No, it's okay." Richard said, looking at both Clark and Lois. "And don't worry, Clark. I won't tell your secret. Just… I would like to be a part of Jason's life no matter what happens. I don't care if he starts doing things I won't understand at first. But, I will always think of him as my son."
"I don't want to come between you and your family, Richard. I-"
"You didn't. Well, you did… but, you didn't mean to do it." Richard tried to explain himself.
"No, Richard, she made her choice the other day and I respect that. It was me that left, now I have to live with my choices." Clark said.
Richard suddenly stopped, tilting his head to one side, frowning. "He… doesn't know?" He asked Lois, noticing Clark frowning back in confusion. After a while, Richard nodded and smiled. "Well, Clark, whatever happens, I hope we can at least be friends. Even if you are Superman. I would like that very much. And I would like us to talk about… what's going to happen, how things are going to work for Jason. At least I think I have earned that right."
"We can always talk." He gave him his goofy grin. Then cleared his throat. "As for Jason, I will try to help him as much as I can." Clark said, still not sure what the secret between Richard and Lois truly was.
An uncomfortable silence followed. It was broken by Richard again. "Well, I'm hungry, aren't you? I'm going out for something to eat." Before anyone could say anything, he asked, "I'll bring something back if you want." Nobody answered him, they just stared at him. "I'll take Jason with me; that should give you enough time to… talk."
He took his keys and headed to the door. "Come on, buddy, let's go get dinner!" He yelled. Immediately, Jason stormed out of the room and down the stairs.
"I'm so hungry." Jason remarked as he passed Clark and Lois like nothing was wrong. He quickly glanced back and said: "Oh, hi Mr. Clark."
Clark waved at him and smiled.
"Ready?" Richard opened the door and Jason stepped out, running for the car. "Good luck." He closed the door behind him, knowing it was going to be even harder than he wanted it to be, even when it was the right thing to do.
Lois and Clark were left alone, staring at the door and then at each other in silence. Finally, after a while, when Richard's car could no longer be heard, Lois opened her mouth to talk. It was now or never… suddenly she blurted out: "Clark… I love you."
Clark smiled, and for the first time in his life, felt that he would be all right.