Author's Notes: I promised myself that I'd still participate in the 12 days challenges, so here is my attempt for this year, and I want to focus on Clark. I'd like to just tell his whole side of the story, but my time is just too limited. Thus, from now on, any Clark related one shots will be numbered as such.
This takes place just before Jason's 7th birthday. Lois and Richard aren't married yet. Jason doesn't know anything about his real father. Lois doesn't know Superman's real identity.
Many thanks to htbthomas who is still willing to beta read for nearly the entire fandom, myself included. And thanks to everyone who has ever cheered me on in Superman Fanfiction. I need the escape and you all have given me the courage to write it.
But Not Quite… (#1 in the What Clark Never Told Jason series)
It had been a while since I'd last spoken to Lois privately. The knowing looks that pass between us each time her dark eyes meet mine speak volumes, especially when those looks happen over the form of our sleeping son. Usually the looks happen at the scene of a crime or some other public event that necessitates the presence of both a reporter and Superman. We speak then about the criminal and the repercussions of their actions. But rarely do we actually vocalize our private, intimate thoughts to each other.
So when I heard her mumbling to herself on the roof of the Dailey Planet, I took a chance that she was up there in the hopes of seeing me. Given the date, I knew those hopes were inappropriate. An engaged women shouldn't want to see any man other than her fiancé on Valentine's Day, and yet I was just selfish enough to imagine that was exactly the case. But she was on the roof. That was always a sign that she was, at least, thinking of me.
More realistically, she probably needed to talk about Jason. There had been an incident a few days ago where he broke a shopping cart. He had pulled on it more roughly than he should have and ended up bending the whole side in an unnatural way. She had brushed it off with hurried explanation and reassured Jason he had done nothing wrong, but I knew from watching him the next time they went shopping that the incident left a mark on him.
It was time for Jason to know the truth. Maybe that's why Lois needed to talk with me.
I found her, unlit cigarette in hand, with her thumb ready to ignite the lighter. Her back was to me, and when the flame shot up from the lighter, it cast a glow all around her, illuminating her feminine frame. She held still, almost unnaturally so, with the flame only a few millimeters from the cigarette. Her tongue wet her full lips before she spoke.
"I'm waiting for you to blow out the flame."
"I'm waiting for you to decide to stop smoking."
She chuckled and turned to face me. "It's been a while."
"Yes, it has."
In the quiet that followed she pocketed the unused cigarette and lighter. "So, to what do I owe this visit tonight?"
"I thought you wanted to talk to me. You don't normally come up here unless you need to talk."
"And you don't normally stare at me public events unless you need to talk to me."
She had me there. At a press conference yesterday, I had kept my eyes on her much longer than I usually allowed myself. I wondered when she would tell me about the shopping cart. Even though I knew, I still wanted her to include me in Jason's life. I smiled at her now, for I didn't need to tell her she was right about the staring.
"I know you too well," she shrugged.
"Yes, you do," I agreed. "I only wish the same could be said for Jason."
At the mention of our son's name, her face fell, not in anger or resentment, but in sadness. "Is anything wrong?" she asked.
"Lois," I started, taking a step toward her, "he needs to know the truth."
Her eyes darted away from mine. "It's too soon. He won't understand."
"And I'm sure he understands how he broke the shopping cart the other day."
The flash of anger that filled her dark eyes was unmistakable. "You saw that?"
"No, but I heard him crying and then I listened to your explanation."
She sighed. "It was just an accident."
"These things are happening more frequently. He's getting stronger."
"He's just a little boy."
"Who happens to be partly Kryptonian."
He shoulders slumped as she shook her head. "No, you don't get it."
"Yes, I do Lois. Give me some benefit of the doubt here. I know exactly what he's going though because I went through it, too. His powers are developing. The more he is exposed to sunlight, the stronger he will be. And he has no idea why."
She frowned at me. "But he isn't like you. He has to live in a human world. He can't don a cape and be a super hero. He has to pass as a human."
"So did I."
He stunned expression told me she hadn't been expecting that.
"I knew I was different, but I didn't tell anyone for a long time," I explained. "My parents never kept the truth from me, but we did keep it from the world."
"Your parents?" she asked. "I thought they died on Krypton."
I pursed my lips, wondering if I'd said too much.
"Who are your parents? What are you – are you saying that you were raised on Earth? I always assumed you came here as an adult. But…"
Taking a deep breath, I asked, "And I giving a statement to Lois Lane the reporter, or am I talking to the mother of my son who needs important information?"
She rolled her eyes. "Oh, come on. You know I wouldn't ever—"
"This can't ever end up in a newspaper, Lois."
"It won't," she snapped, looking at me as if I'd truly offended her.
I figured we'd come this far, I might as well tell her. If I showed her some trust about my life, maybe she would, in turn, trust me that Jason should be told the truth.
"I was raised here. I grew up here. My parents found me when I was little. They never kept it from me how or where they found me. And even though they knew I was different, they raised me as normally as they could, with rules and expectations."
"I'm doing that with Jason," she argued.
"But he doesn't know the truth. Every time I developed a new ability, I could, at least, talk to my parents about what was going on. Right now, with Jason, he's left confused. I don't want him growing up that way. I can help him."
"Wouldn't that just put him in danger?" she pointed out. "That's what we're always saying, isn't it? That you can't be with him without possibly putting him in danger? Hell, you can't even be with me!"
The argument that had been building stopped cold.
"You're right, it does potentially put him in danger," I continued in a softer voice. "But Lois, he deserves to know the truth."
She hesitated, chewing at her lip and shifting her weight in a nervous manner. "I can't."
"Because… then I'd have to tell… Richard."
The power that one name had over the both of us was rather impressive. The human representation of everything I should have been and yet failed to do. The man living the life I wanted, engaged to the woman I loved, raising my son as his own.
"He should know the truth, too," I said quietly.
Her heart, which had been racing for a while now, skipped a beat and then fluttered wildly in her chest. "I can't. I just… can't."
"It'll kill him. He'll be devastated. I can't tell him that Jason isn't his son. Not yet."
I swallowed hard, hearing in that admission more than what she was saying. "If you don't tell him, he will eventually figure it out. You know this, don't you? It's only a matter of time until Jason does something unexplainable in front of him."
"I know," she sighed. "And I will tell him. I just… I need until June."
My brows furrowed in confusion. "Why June?"
"Well, at least until June third. That's the date."
Her eyes met mine directly as I felt my heart sink into the pit of my stomach. I tried to push my emotions aside, but found it impossible to keep the regret from seeping out in my voice when I said, "I wasn't aware you had set a date."
"We ordered the invitations a few days ago."
I nodded, unable to speak for fear that I would scream in absolute madness. I'd known for a while that this was coming, but now that it was here, it hurt more than I'd ever anticipated. And soon she wouldn't just be engaged to him, but she would me married to him. Legally. Fully. His wife. Never mine.
It was Lois who broke the heavy silence. "If I promise to tell Richard after the wedding, can you wait to tell Jason the truth until then, too?"
I blinked, fighting for control over my broken heart. "Why wait until after the wedding?"
"Because I don't want to lose him." She exhaled, cursed, and began rummaging around in her pockets for the cigarette she hadn't lit. "I feel like such a coward, but that's what it comes to. I don't want to lose him. Okay, I said it. I don't want to lose him." Her hands fumbled as she lit the cigarette and deeply inhaled the nicotine. "I lost you years ago, and I can accept that. But I can't lose him. I can't lose you both. I just can't. I have to have something, damn it." She took another long drag.
"You never lost me, Lois," I said softly. "You couldn't lose me if you tried."
"Oh, really? Then why are you letting me marry him?"
The question came at me as a total surprise. "I don't understand," I said, closing the distance between us. "Let you marry him?"
"Yes, exactly. Why aren't you fighting for me? Why don't you tell me that I shouldn't marry him?"
With my heart now in my throat I said, "First of all, it isn't that I am letting you marry him. It's that you want to marry him."
She inhaled and exhaled sharply, rolling her eyes again in the process.
"And second of all, I did fight for you."
She flicked the ash off of her cigarette, keeping her eyes pinned to mine the whole time. "Well, maybe I've changed my mind."
If only that were true. My heart wanted it to be true, but I knew better. If I'd learned anything in the last two years is was that regardless of how she felt about me, Lois really did love Richard.
The silence that filled the space between us was palpable. The only sounds came from the noisy streets below and Lois' shoe as she stamped out her cigarette. Neither of us spoke, choosing to let our hearts race and our breath hitch as we waited for the other person to say something.
Braving the distance, I stepped closer to her, closer than I had been in a long time, so close that our bodies nearly touched. Gently, I brushed her hair back away from her face. Once, then twice. My other hand soon lifted so that I could hold her face between my hands and stare directly into her deep, soulful eyes. She was so beautiful, more beautiful today than she'd ever been before.
Her chest rose and fell quickly as her breathing became shallow. What little space that had been between us vanished as her body slowly, oh so slowly, pressed against my own. I could feel her shape against me, feel the delicate frame of her body as she wound her arms around my waist and held me to her.
Her eyes, still locked with my own, reflected every emotion that I was feeling. The hope, the desire, the love was all there plain as day. And her mouth, so full and tempting, hung slightly open in an unspoken invitation.
I leaned in towards her, wanting to press my mouth against her lips and kiss her so deeply that she would remember everything we'd ever been though together. My fingers, now lightly stroking the soft skin of her cheek, wanted to mould themselves into her flesh and explore her body as it had so many years ago. My body wanted to join with hers completely, united, bringing us as physically close as two people could possibly be. Today was a day set aside for lovers, and I longed to take full advantage of the day and sweep her up into my arms and make her completely mine.
But I couldn't. She wasn't mine. And this wasn't my decision to make. It was hers.
My nose brushed against hers, but I didn't allow myself to kiss her. I closed my eyes and imagined what it would feel like to taste her again, remembered what it felt like to stroke her lips with my tongue. But all that I permitted myself was the feel of her cool breath against my skin. Her hands squeezed my sides and I lazily brushed my nose against her face and inhaled her sweet perfume. But still, I did not kiss her.
Or more to the point, she didn't kiss me. Her chin never tilted upwards to give me a better angle. She never went up on her toes so she could reach my lips better. In fact, other than the repetitive opening and closing of her hands at my side, she didn't move at all. Which proved my point.
"You haven't changed your mind," I whispered against her cheek. "You and I both know what's in your heart."
I felt more than saw her blink her eyes. "I love you."
"But you love him more," I said regretfully.
Our mouths were still very close, close enough that one small millimeter separated us. And yet that distance was never closed, not be me or by her. She couldn't betray the promises she had made to Richard and I wouldn't be the cause of her betrayal.
And like that, the moment was gone.
I stepped back from her, letting her arms fall limply away from my body. We stared at each other for a long time, still breathing deeply, shaken slightly from how close we'd come to nearly giving in, and yet understanding fully just how meaningful it was that we hadn't.
"Ironic, don't you think," she said with a mocking quiver in her voice, "that today is Valentine's Day."
"A day for lovers. And here I am so terrified of losing one lover by telling him the truth that I very nearly do the unthinkable with a former lover, who he, himself, won't tell me the truth. How messed up is that?"
Before I could even respond, she said, "Do you have any idea what it's like to live every day in fear that the person you love will find out the truth from you about something that will break their heart? And yet you know that you have to tell them. Someday, you will have to tell them. Do you have any idea how utterly terrifying it is?"
"Yes, I do, Lois," I admitted.
She thought for a moment, and then her face lit up in realization. "Of course you do. Because if you weren't keeping a secret from me, then I would remember… everything."
Feeling very exposed, I pulled my eyes away from hers and looked down at the ground.
"So that's it, then? I marry Richard and… we just move forward?"
"And we tell Jason the truth."
"That's right," she sighed. "This whole conversation did start over Jason. Forget my whole unsuccessful attempt at seduction, because that's never going to happen, is it?" She sounded angry now. "We just focus on Jason from now on."
"It's what he needs," I stated plainly. And then more truthfully I said, "It's what I need."
She nodded. "I know. Just please, it has to wait until after I tell Richard."
"That's a long time."
"A few months."
"You asked me if I knew what you were feeling? Well Lois, do you have any idea what it's like to see your child every day and never have the chance to be alone with him, to talk to him, to tell him you would do anything for him? I'm his father and he doesn't even know me."
She wet her lips as she thought. "What about on his birthday? You could come see him then."
Hope leapt in my chest. "You'd allow that?"
"You just can't tell him you're his father. Not yet."
"All right. I can agree to that."
"His birthday is March—"
"I know when his birthday is."
"I know. I was just saying that it gives you – and me – a few weeks to think about things."
I smiled. "Thank you."
She breathed deeply. "What a shitty day."
Now I regretted ever coming to talk to her. "Please, don't say that. I didn't intend to ruin your holiday."
"It isn't you. Well," she chuckled, "it isn't all you. I just should be celebrating and here I am feeling… alone."
"You're never alone, Lois. Never."
She looked at me longingly and smiled sadly.
"I should go," I said.
"Right," she agreed. "I'll see you… around."
"Until Jason's birthday."
"Yes. Jason's birthday."
I drifted up from the roof top, hovering slightly, and added, "Happy Valentine's Day, Lois."
She pursued her lips and inhaled sharply, but didn't echo my farewell.
I watched her for a while from the clouds. She lingered on the roof top for at least ten minutes after I'd been out of her sight. I continued to watch her as she made her way back to her office where Richard was waiting for her with a single red rose. I even watched as he pulled her into his embrace and kissed her deeply, granting him, once again, the very thing I wish I had.
They went out to dinner together as a couple. I grabbed some Chinese take out on my way back to my apartment. They spent the evening holding hands, kissing, and… well… I stopped paying attention after that. I spent the evening watching sports.
It wasn't until a few minutes before midnight that I heard her voice cutting through the noise of the world to reach my ears.
"Where ever you are… if you can hear me… Happy Valentine's Day."
I knew it would be the last time she would wish me a Happy Valentine's Day. Next year, she would be married, and it would be a thousand times more inappropriate for her to say such things. I'd never hear her say that to me again. And in that moment, I wished I had kissed her on the roof. Of all the regrets I had over Lois, for some reason I knew that moment when we almost kissed would forever haunt me like an unwanted ghost. Like everything else that pertained to my relationship with Lois.
It almost was…