A WARNING containing spoilers on the bottom of the page.


Chapter 1a

Morning

His life had changed drastically in recent time. However, if someone actually asked him to name the date that separated significant before and after, Richard wouldn't pick up the most obvious one four days ago. No, his life left its ordinary route a little earlier. Probably the last normal day was one family Sunday about two weeks ago all three of them spend together. He, Jason and Lois. The rigid logic was telling those events couldn't be related with what happened later but Richard knew... he damn knew better.

A home phone started ringing. Richard didn't left the kitchen chair to pick it up. If his cell phone wasn't already turned off, it surely would have followed. Of course it was.

Yesterday he'd spent the whole day with people. Today was his day alone. Well, almost alone, but Jason was just a kid and still sleeping, exhausted from events of last few days. At least Richard hoped that was all. If munchkin wouldn't appear in half of hour, Richard decided to get up and look upon him.

Another sigh echoed through the kitchen.

He'd watched his life going out of control and maybe he'd seen something bad coming, but he'd never expected the end like this. It wasn't right, it wasn't fair, it even didn't make sense on the outside, but it was how it happened. At first details, than bigger accidents all leading towards the catastrophe.

It'd started almost innocently. Lois decided to sleep on a couch. It had happened before, after an argument or when one of them returned too worn out from the work to even made it upstairs, but never after one of accidents involving Jason's health or without Richard even suspecting the reason.

The breakfast following morning occurred as usual. The fact that Lois looked as if she hadn't closed her eyes all night could have been expected. Lois never slept well after Jason's fragile health let itself known. Besides, their couch wasn't what one would call the most conformable piece of furniture on the world. Richard used to joke that it was a sight of a good marriage. In their case the word engagement would be more correct, but he couldn't help himself. In his mind they were married in all that mattered even if not by the law. Now… he stopped it hurt too much.

During next two days nothing out of ordinary happened. It lasted until Jimmy decided to give Jason an old digital camera. Digital camera to five years old - who does that? If you had looked at the device closer it had a primitive control. Even considering an age of the apparatus, Richard knew, Jimmy himself had never used it. It wasn't designed for professional photography, more like first digital camera you would give your grandmother... or five years old. So maybe Richard was prejudiced, maybe that device wasn't cause of anything, nevertheless he knew with absolute certainty, that if he ever saw the same model he would pound it to pieces.

How he regretted that he hadn't know it back then. But not even two weeks ago a camera had been just a camera, Jason was thrilled to get one and Lois promised take him next day to ZOO and try it.

If Richard told he had been thinking much about the trip during his own work hours, he would be lying. Lois hadn't called whole day. Sometimes she used to when their free days didn't match, then again, other times she didn't. Returning home he had expected to find his fiancée and son already waiting for him. They were indeed there, but with that all normality ended.

Lois was sitting on the couch staring absentmindedly to space before her. It worried him from the start. Last time he'd seen her anything like that was years ago, when their relationship had been starting and her life was a nasty mess. He couldn't find any reason for it that day.

"Lois is everything all right?" he asked, thousands of horrible scenarios going through his mind. She didn't answer. Richard put a hand on her shoulder and she had turned her head towards him in one sharp move like a startled animal.

"Jason -" Richard started.

"No!" It was almost shouting, but finally her eyes seemed to be focusing on him. "I'm sorry, Richard, there are just too many things on my mind. Jason is all right. It's just that camera. He has broken it and it made him upset a lot. I've put him to bet earlier. Please don't ask him about it, he need some time to figure on his own that accidents happen and sometimes it's no one's fault."

With that she had stood up absurdly and almost ran towards the kitchen. Richard was glad that he had been given a motive for his fiancée's odd behavior, the previous few moments had unsettled him greatly; however, his relief was premature.

The dinner was noticeable quieter without Jason. Lois had acted as usual, but it was acting in meaning pretending and Richard recognized it.

Following day she asked him on a romantic dinner. He agreed. At the beginning it was pleasant but soon Richard realized that Lois wasn't her usual self. Of course he had heard she had changed after they met, or maybe after she found out about Jason. She'd slowed down, became less reckless. However, woman sharing the table with him had been an stranger, way too sweet and attentive. He found himself missing the usual rougher Lois. He put it trough the dinner not wanting to offer her. The ending in bedroom was familiar enough.

Next day, when he woke up, Richard expected the old Lois to return. He didn't get her. Towards everyone else Lois acted as usual but with him it had been all smiles and caring even about most trivial of his needs. Next day the same. At the third one, Richard couldn't stand it anymore. He asked Lois straight what the hell was going on.

At first she denied her behavior had been out of ordinary. Lois Lane could be called an expert on denial, but even she couldn't go away with that one.

"I just wanted to be nice for a change." She proclaimed changing tactics.

"But why that radical, change of personality? Lois, last few days I've felt like if I was living with a stranger, why-?"

"Because!"

That was her last word for him for few days. She went furious. Not "we would be shouting at each other for hours" angry, but death silence furious – something she hadn't done since the last time Richard had tried to hustle her to set up the wedding date. Immediately afterwards he couldn't help himself to be glad real Lois was back, even if she hadn't been speaking with him at the moment, however, as soon as the first joy faded, he was able to sense that in truth everything was horrible wrong.

Someone rang on the front door. Richard didn't leave the kitchen to open or even look who it was. Instead he just checked the time on the microwave. Fifteen minutes and he will get up and look at Jason.

When Lois was angry, there was a route one needed to proceed to get on her good side again. Firstly give her some space to cool down, then acknowledge your faults and let her add the list of sins you forgotten to be sorry for, argue some out and acknowledge the others. From this point on it was an easy ride.

The little scary part of the deal was that while arguing Lois was at her best, aiming on the raw center of the problem, never talking around or taking kiddy glowers. But then again, barely less could be expected from star reporter even in her personal life. She was not only able to see what others overlooked, but name it too and Richard had known it from the start. Not everyone would be able to stand a chance with woman like her and he had been always proud to be one of few.

Nevertheless, in their last argument things hadn't worked how they were supposed to. They went through space phase and even Why I think I was wrong one, but then they got stuck like in their engagement.

At least, that have been what he thought at first, because when he had looked at it closer suddenly he understood that Lois being angry was smallest of their troubles. It was like there was a problem so huge between them that if it on day materialized they wouldn't be able to stand closer than on different continents. What was worse Richard despite trying wasn't able to put finger on what it was.

He could feel that Lois knew, but as soon as she stopped to avoid him completely, he had recognized that she was unable to tell him. In that moment, after years of engagement Richard realized that he was used to face Lois stubbornness or anger but not her vulnerability. She never really let him. He hadn't been about to gave up; he had been prepared to learn, no matter the time or effort it could take. He'd even considered asking for professional help if Lois let him, however, around that time she had accepted the assignment.

Richard took few calming breaths. He wasn't prepared to go there yet. Looking out of the window, he saw that it was quite nice day - sunny and warm, if one cared about it. He didn't. He checked the time again, still about ten minutes reminded. The hell with them, he told himself, this was going to his son's room not a lawyer appointment. Richard finally left the kitchen.

Jason still in his pajamas was sitting on the bed looking into empty space in same pose Richard had found Lois not even two weeks ago. However, this time he could guess rather well what was going through other person's mind from the beginning.

He sat besides the boy and put him into hug desperately trying to find the best words to say. His son was quicker and done it with flying colors.

"Thanks."

Richard doubted that anyone could tell him anything that would have helped more and he was the father! He still didn't know how to answer. But as Jason relaxed in his arms, he realized that no more words were necessary.

Richard decided to stay here as long as both of them would feel comfortable, or till he would hear the first stomach growling.

The outside world didn't let him.

In almost silent house even the unlocking of the front door could be heard one story up. And there should be no one besides Richard able to do that now.

Someone entered.

"Stay here," he whispered towards Jason and went down.

He half expected to run upon some tabloid reporter. He remembered how it had been after Superman left and this time it was even worse.


Warning: major character death.