Author's Notes: I know it's been years since I started this AU, but it still eats at my brain. I've hinted at a moment in another fic where Lois sees Clark holding a baby. Well, this is that moment. It's also the moment when things start to shift for Lois in the way she eventually forgives Clark. I really debated between showing Lois' PoV or Clark's for the fact that I really wanted to tap into how things change when he eventually speaks up for himself. So keep that in mind when you get to that moment.
For those of you unfamiliar with my AU, this story takes place just after Jason's son, Eric, has been born. After 20 years of not knowing the truth, Lois knows the full truth now and is very angry at Clark.
This was written for the 12 Days of Clois community. I was very slow in getting it posted here!
Another crisis averted. The passengers in the west bound train out of Cologne were safe and would live to see another day. And I, now dressed in the typical non-descript, off the rack suit, stood quietly on the elevator as it made the slow journey up to the bull pen. When the doors would open, I would casually cross to my desk, sit down, and resume working as if I hadn't just been in Germany moments earlier. Lois, who would know exactly what I had been up to, would glare at me with that scowl that was permanently etched on her face whenever she looked at me these days. And then we'd go on working side by side without speaking or acknowledging each other.
I hated it.
So when the elevator doors open to the image of my daughter-in-law standing there holding my grandson, it was a welcome change to the daily grind.
"Kate!" I said taking in her worried expression. "Is something wrong? Are you okay?"
"Clark! Hi. No, I'm fine. I'm just…" She glanced around the room disheartened and sighed. "I'm just waiting for Lois. You haven't seen her, have you?"
"No. Jimmy?" I turned to the photographer "Have you seen Lois?"
He looked up from his computer. "Yeah, she had an interview with the DA this afternoon."
Another deep, frustrated sigh escaped Kate. "She said she would be back."
"What's the problem?" I asked.
"I'm going with Jason to this gala event tonight for the symphony. It's our first time out alone without Eric and Lois was going to watch him. I have an appointment at the salon in forty-five minutes that I'm going to miss if I don't go now, and if I miss my appointment then my hair, which hasn't been cut in months, is going to look awful, not to mention that my dress calls for an up-do and I just don't have it in me to get it done on my own, and then I won't be able to go with Jason, and I just really want to go with him." It had come out in a mess of words with hardly any pauses for breath.
The solution was simple. "I can watch Eric."
Her eyes went wide. "Really?"
"Sure. I can take care of him until Lois shows up."
"Are you certain? I mean, what if something… you know… comes up and you have to… go?" She made a jerking movement with her shoulder to indicate the window.
"I'll stay with Eric. I promise."
"Really? 'Cause I don't want to interfere in your day."
My voice dropped to a near whisper. "Please, Kate. Eric is never a disruption. You know that."
She blushed. "I know, I just…" Her bangs ruffled as she blew out her breath in a huff. "Okay, so here's what you need to know."
She placed the baby in his car seat carrier and started rambling on through a series of instructions pertaining to the feeding, diaper changing, sleeping, and playing habits of the three month old infant, all of which I took in with a broad smile on my face. It wasn't every day that I was given the task of single handedly caring for one of the people I loved most in the world. I was thrilled to do it.
"Thanks so much, Clark. Really," Kate said gathering up her purse and taking a step towards the elevator. With a wink she added, "You're my hero today."
"Ha ha. Now get going."
She blew a kiss to Eric as the elevator doors slid closed around her leaving me alone with the baby.
I glanced down at him in awe. He really was a beautiful baby, and I wasn't just thinking that because I was biased. He cooed noisily and blinked up at me with those familiar blue eyes of Jason's. His chubby fists flailed around until he found his mouth and pushed a fist against his lips to drool on. I couldn't resist. I had to hold him.
"Hey there, little guy," I murmured as I gently lifted him out of the carrier and into my arms. He snuggled into the crook of my arms still sucking on his fists. His round bottom fit perfectly in my palm, and I patted him lightly the way I'd seen Kate do many times.
"Oh, my goodness!" I turned around at the sound of the female voice behind me to find Janette, one of the newer copy editors, heading my way. "Whose baby is this, Clark?"
"He's um…" I caught myself before saying, 'He's my son's,' and said, "…Lois' grandson. I'm just watching him for a moment."
"So sweet! He is so precious!"
"Oh! Is that Jason's baby?" a second voice, called out. Perry's assistant, Marissa, joined Janette in fussing over Eric. "I never get a chance to see him when they drop by."
"Look at the baby!" a third female voice rang out, this one belonging to someone I didn't know but I'd seen her around.
The three females oohed and ahhed and sighed and giggled while Eric chewed on his fist. Jason told me about a similar experience he had at the symphony the first time he showed up with Eric in tow. "There is something about women and babies," he had said. I can't go anywhere with him and not be swarmed by ladies who want to see him smile." The fact that Eric was drawing a steady crowd of all women more than proved Jason's point.
Suddenly, Eric must have chomped a bit too hard because he abruptly let out a wail of pain. The ladies, now six in total, all jumped in concern while I placed him up onto my shoulder and started to lightly bounce him around in the hope that it would calm him down. It only took a minute, and Eric was back to his happy self.
"Wow, Clark," Marissa praised. "You certainly have a way with that baby."
"Yeah, you are really great with him," the youngest in the bunch agreed.
Then Janette asked the question that made my heart nearly break in two. "Why didn't you ever get married, Clark? You would have been a great father."
I gaped at her, not knowing how to respond. I'm sure I must have looked like the fish the way my mouth opened and closed. Just as I was trying to formulate a response and stuttered a very Clark like series of, "Well… golly… I, um… I, um…" type syllables, a seventh female voice interrupted me.
"Yeah, Clark. Answer her."
She was standing in the elevator, her eyes shooting daggers at me.
"Why didn't you ever get married?" Her tone was so cold I swear frost formed on the windows.
"Hi, Lois," I smiled in a miserable attempt to offer some warmth to the situation.
"What are you doing? Why do you have my grandson? Where's Kate?"
Without further comment, the six ladies scattered in all directions. It was common knowledge by now around the office that Lois and I had had a fight and a pretty awful one at that. It didn't take much for her temper to flare up at me these days, so the women had reasonable justification for not wanting to stick around when she confronted me.
I wet my lips and offered my explanation. "Kate came by and waited for you to show up so she could head out, but since you were running late I offered to watch Eric until you came back."
Her eyes narrowed on me. "How long ago was this?"
"About ten minutes maybe."
The tell tale pop of her hip and tilt of her head announced that she wasn't satisfied with my answer. "I have been down stairs with legal for the last half hour working through some of the things I need to know about my trip to Washington next week."
Obviously I was supposed to have said more because now her other hip popped. "You knew I was in the building and yet you told Kate I wasn't."
Eyes wide I said, "No, wait. I didn't know you were here. Jimmy said you were at an interview with the mayor."
"Oh, Jimmy said, huh? You had to ask Jimmy when you could have just listened for me?" Her voice dropped in volume significantly, but the ice was still just as thick. "I don't buy it, Clark." The way she said my name anymore felt like a stab to the gut. No love. No kindness. All pain and anger.
"I swear, Lois, I didn't know you were in the building. Yes, I could have listened for you, but I didn't. I'm sorry. I guess I messed up. Again."
She tutted at me and reached for Eric. "Just give me my grandson and get on with whatever you need to do."
I passed the infant to her and watched as she adjusted him in her arms. Her face lit up as she smiled down at him. It was difficult for me to determine which one of them looked the more beautiful – the happy infant or the woman who held him. They were mesmerizing together and my heart shuddered to consider what she must have looked like holding Jason when he was that small.
My reverie was broken when she noticed me staring at her. "Clark," she said sharply, "go."
"Um… right. Um… Kate said that he's been awake for a while and he should be ready for a nap soon. And that she just changed him so you shouldn't have to deal with that probably until after his nap. She said that there are two bottles ready to go and some more formula in the diaper bag. He gets four ounces every three to four hours. And that if he gets really fussy he likes to bounce or be rocked, but that if that doesn't work he likes—"
"Clark!" she snapped. "I know how to take care of a baby. In fact, I'm pretty sure I know a lot more about babies than you ever will."
I blinked, my mouth hanging slightly open.
Lois just huffed and returned her focus to the baby. "As if I didn't know how to take care of my grandson."
I nodded, even though she didn't see me, and started to walk away. It didn't escape my notice that she had twice referred to Eric as her grandson, but there wasn't anything I could say in the open to oppose her. I should have just kept walking, but when I noticed Lois struggling to lift the car seat, the diaper bag, her lap top case, and her purse, I couldn't refuse to at least offer assistance.
"Here, let me help you with something," I said reaching for the diaper bag.
With an aggressive jerk Lois snatched the bag away from me. "I can get it on my own."
"I just didn't want you to drop—"
"Look, I've done this before. I did this all without you once – for several years. I did it without you then, I can do it without you now!"
No one knew how to dish out the pain like Lois. And boy did that one sting. Giving in, I dropped the bag and backed away from her with my hands up in surrender.
It was a struggle, but she did manage to somehow pick up everything and carry it to the elevator. She grunted as she sat the bag down and reached for the button to call the elevator up to our floor.
In the few short seconds the elevator took to arrive, I fought an internal battle with myself. My brain told me to let her go, that she had more than proven a point and that if I said or did anything else it would only make matters worse. But my heart reasoned that I'd been running away from her anger, giving her the distance she wanted, and yet matters weren't getting any better. So I could let her go and take the hit just like I always do, or I could go after her and make my point and maybe… and it was a big maybe… things could be a little better. What did I have to lose at this point anyway?
For once, I let my heart win.
Just as the elevator doors were closing with Lois and Eric tucked inside the lift, I quickly slipped inside giving Lois no time to get off the elevator or stop the doors from closing to kick me off.
"What are you doing?" she snarled.
"This," I said hitting the halt button.
Her eyes bore into mine with such fire that made me very glad she didn't have heat vision. I held my own under her powerful glare, pulling the strength up from my gut to actually say what needed to be said, no matter how badly the outcome might be.
"I can't do this anymore, Lois," I admitted. "I can't keep fighting with you."
She rolled her eyes, "Oh, good God."
I ignored her. "I can't keep walking on eggshells around you hoping that everything I say or do won't upset you when I know that everythingI say or do will upset you. I can't keep up the pretense that your snide and hurtful comments reminding me of just how badly I messed things up don't cut me to the core. I can't apologize anymore than what I've already done. I'm sorry. I screwed up. It was all my fault. I made the worst mistake of my life. What I did was awful and wrong and I'm sorry. I'm sorry, Lois. I'm so sorry. I will say it a million times if it will make any difference. But it won't, will it? So what do you want from me? What can I do so this will stop? Tell me what I can do. Whatever it is, I will do it. I just want this to stop because I can't do it anymore. It's killing me."
She didn't seem the least bit phased. "You'll get over it, Clark. After all, you're invincible."
"Physical pain is one thing, Lois. But what I feel in my heart—"
"I don't care what you feel in your heart," she said almost casually. "You hurt? Good. Now maybe you can slightly comprehend what I feel."
"That's what this is, then? Revenge? Payback?"
She shrugged, "Call it whatever you want, but there aren't enough 'sorrys' in the world to make it go away."
With a deep breath I glanced down at Eric. "And part of this revenge is keeping me from my grandson?"
"He is my grandson," she stressed.
"He's mine, too. Like it or not, Lois, Eric is my grandson and you can't tell me I can't spend time with him. That is for Jason and Kate to decide. According to them, they want me around."
"Which I don't understand. You didn't even care about Eric enough to visit the hospital after he was born," she scolded.
"Oh, yes, I did." My correction obviously caught her by surprise. "I was there for most of the day, I just didn't go in the room." When she frowned at me I said, "You were there all day, Lois, and the last thing I wanted to do on such an important day was fight with you. So I stayed back and let you visit all you wanted. Then after you left, I had the chance to see him. And you know what? Jason got very angry at me for it and told me not to do that again. Yet here I am, once again tiptoeing around you where Eric is concerned because of the guilt I feel over what happened between us."
"You should feel guilty,' she said, adjusting a few of the things she was holding. I knew everything must be getting very heavy for her, and that she was too stubborn to admit it, but I wasn't about to offer to help her again.
"Well, I do feel guilty. I'm trying to make up for it, but you won't let me. It's rather twisted when you think about it. One of the reasons you're angry at me is for not being there while Jason was growing up. I stayed away from him and wasn't a big part of his life which I admit was a mistake. But now I have the chance to be here while Eric is growing up, and be a part of his life, and you won't let me! I can't win! I wasn't here for Jason, which makes you mad, but now that I'm here for Eric, you're still mad! It is a no-win situation for me!"
My anger was rising, but it couldn't be helped. Everything I'd kept in check to appease Lois was spilling out, including every annoyed emotion I felt over the whole situation. I'd always been passive about her treatment toward me, thinking that's what she wanted. But after three years of torture, I had reached my breaking point.
"You make it sound like this is my fault," Lois sneered. "This was your choice, Clark. You chose to be Superman and to limit your involvement with Jason and me. I'm only following through with that."
"By taking it out on me when I offer to help care for Eric," I added.
"Just because you have a guilty conscience and want to make up for time you lost with Jason by spending time with Eric doesn't make things right. I think it's insulting, to tell the truth."
"You'll do for Eric what you wouldn't do for Jason."
"And that is?"
"Taking care of him, Clark," she bit.
"I took care of Jason," I retorted a bit harsher than I intended.
"How many times did he play at my desk?"
"Oh, please. That doesn't count. I was right there."
"Were you? Did you ever notice how many times I took him over to water cooler near the window… to stand in the sunlight?" I emphasized.
She huffed and adjusted the heavy load in her arms.
"Or the time you asked me to go pick him up from school when you had a meeting."
That one grabbed her attention. "When?"
"Just before Luthor died."
Her mouth snapped shut and there was an uneasy silence in the elevator for a few tense moments. We had never spoken about Lex Luthor's death, and it wasn't something I was ready to talk about now. However, I had taken care of Jason for a while at that time.
After a long pause Lois said, "I didn't know who you were then, so that doesn't count."
"Yes, he did know," understanding lit in her eyes. "As I recall it was around that time when Jason started hating you."
I pursed my lips and forged on. "I still took care of him then. I even had him overnight once. I fed him, kept him safe, let him show off his abilities."
"And he came home from that hating you more than ever. Yeah, you took really good care of him, Clark."
That broke me. It was the proverbial straw on the camel's back.
"Damn it, Lois!" I roared. "Must you remind me constantly of every mistake I've ever made? If you think I've forgotten, all I have to do is look across the office to see Richard kissing you to know exactly the hell I've dug for myself! I made a mistake and I regret it every day of my life, but I am trying to do what is right now. I am trying to do what Jason wants and what you want. Since there is no way in hell I will ever be able to please you, then I will do what I can to please Jason. And today, pleasing Jason meant doing a favor for Kate and watching Eric for all of five minutes until you arrived. Now give me a God damn break!"
She stared back at me, eyes wide mouth open, in utter astonishment. I knew I had just crossed the line, but I couldn't hold it in any longer. I was Kryptonian, yet at the core I was just a man with as many faults and insecurities as any human man. There was only so much I could take.
I swallowed hard, taking in her still stunned expression, and pulled a frustrated hand through my hair. Unable to stand the hurt I saw in her eyes, I turned away, my head hung low. I could hear her heart racing in her chest. The only sense I could make out of it was that she was scared, for I had never before raised my voice to her in anger. I had a right to feel angry, but that didn't give me the right to frighten her
"I'm sorry," I said softly, still unable to face her. "I shouldn't have yelled at you."
There was a long pause before she quietly said, "Do you know what it was like for me to see you holding Eric? What it was like for me to hear all those women fawn over you and ask you about marriage? Telling you that you would have made a great father? Do you know what that did to me?"
Her voice cracked uncharacteristically. I glanced over my shoulder at her to see that her eyes were glossy with tears that I knew she would hold in with all her might.
"Do you know," she continued, "how many times I tried to imagine what you would have been like with Jason as a baby? How many times I wondered if you would have been gentle, if you would have rocked him or changed diapers? How I've wondered what you would even look like with a tiny baby in your arms? And then to see you with Eric…" She pressed her lips together and paused significantly. "Do you have any idea what it was like for me to watch you with him and know that you would have been so good with him – that you would have been a wonderful father to him as a baby?"
I slowly turned around just enough to meet her eyes. "Probably the same thing it does to me when I see you holding Eric."
Her eyes slid closed and she took a deep breath in and released it.
"Will you take the diaper bag?"
The question was so random I didn't quite understand.
"It's heavy and it hurts my shoulder."
Hesitantly, I reached forward and slid the strap off of Lois' shoulder and looped it over my own.
"And my case. Please."
I took her case, which held her laptop and heaven knew what else in it that weighed it down.
With her load lessened, she shifted Eric again to a more comfortable position.
"Thank you," she mumbled.
"You don't have to thank me."
"Yes, I do."
"I shouldn't have yelled at you."
"Yes, you should have. I was purposefully being a bitch and you called me out on it." She paused. "I think that's a first for you."
We stared at each other for a moment. It was almost as if I could feel the air change around us. The tension was still there, but it wasn't as thick as it had been. Comforted by the fact that she had at least allowed me to help her, I reached over and pressed the button for the elevator to resume its descent down to the parking garage.
"Where did you park?" I asked when the doors opened.
"At the back," she directed.
I followed her, trying not to let it get to me how very right it felt to be doing something so normal as taking our grandson to the car with Lois. For a brief moment, it felt as if we were a couple. Just two grandparents taking care of their son's infant so he could have an evening alone with his wife. Like a normal family.
But we weren't a normal family and Lois and I weren't a couple. That fact was driven into my brain when her cell phone began playing the theme from the theme from Indiana Jones. Richard had programmed it into her phone as a joke and Lois, who still couldn't figure out how to use simple functions like spell check on her computer, had never been able to change it.
She answered the call and told him she was on her way home now and that she would call him later tonight. I stood uncomfortably off to the side, keeping my focus on anything but Lois and her conversation… like the gum trapped between the pavement and the wheel of Lois' car. She kept talking right though getting Eric's car seat strapped into the back seat. She popped the trunk so that I could deposit the diaper bag and her case while she said her good-byes to Richard. As well as how much she missed him since he was away on business. And how much she loved him. I tried not to listen, but some things can't be avoided. I fiddled in the trunk for at least three minutes until she actually told Richard good-bye and shut off her phone.
"Sorry about that," she offered, opening the driver-side door and flinging her purse and cell phone onto the seat.
"Not a problem," I replied as casually as possible with a forced smile. Quickly, I averted my attention to Eric tucked safely in his car seat. I leaned into the car to say good-bye to him before gently closing the door. "Well…" I said, not knowing what to say. I met her eyes briefly and then looked away again. "I should let you get going."
"Wait a second," she said.
I waited. For more than a second.
"Look, I won't stop you from seeing Eric. I won't. You're right about that. If you've made headway with Jason and he wants you around… then I shouldn't stop you. So I promise to not be so horrible about that from now on."
I smiled at her. Nothing big or overly showy. Even though I felt like doing cartwheels or flying to the moon and back to express the joy I felt over hearing her say she would ease up on me a bit, I didn't dare over react for fear that she'd rescind the offer.
"But that doesn't mean I'm ready to forgive you for everything."
Even with the confirmation that she was still angry and she still mistrusted me, I still felt happy over winning some ground today. "I understand," I said.
"Good," she sighed and nodded in dismissal.
Returning the nod I said, "Have a good evening, Lois."
Lois didn't move. I knew this because she made no sounds as I started to walk away. She wasn't getting into the car. She wasn't even playing with her keys. However, I could hear that her heart rate had increased and was continuing to increase the further away I was.
I got several feet away before she called to me. "Hey, Clark…"
"Yes?" I said, turning to face her.
"I know I don't have the right to ask this, but it's been a long time since I've had a baby all night long on my own. Not that I expect anything to go wrong because I have full confidence that everything will be fine. But just in case… just to be sure… if you could… you know… listen out for anything…"
"You and Eric will be perfectly safe, Lois. You have my word."
As if there was any place on this planet she could go and I wouldn't be able to hear her cry for help. As if there was any way I wouldn't hear if something happened to Eric that shouldn't. They were two of the four people I paid close attention to, regardless of how my father might consider it breaking the rules.
"Good night, Lois," I said softly before heading back to the elevator.
"Good night, Clark."
I pressed the button, the doors opened, and I stepped inside.
Another crisis averted. The passengers in the silver Toyota Camry were safely on their way to the residence on Riverside drive. And I, now feeling as if a load had been lifted off of my shoulders, stood quietly but contently on the elevator as it made the slow journey up to the bull pen. When the doors would open, I would happily cross to my desk, sit down, and resume working as if I hadn't just bridged an enormous gap that had been tearing at my soul for a few months. Lois, who would never allow herself to break her word in this case, wouldn't glare at me anymore if I mentioned Eric. And even though she wouldn't forgive me fully just yet, she might at least talk to me when we would be together with Eric.
It was a new day.
I was thrilled.