July 24, 2012: Corrected some minor errors, nothing major, no changes to the storyline.
December 18, 2011: I found some errors when I was rereading this chapter, and I wasn't happy with some of the descriptions, so I made minor changes, but not enough to change the course of the story, if you have already read this chapter.
Author's Note: I started thinking about this story some years ago, after Superman Returns was released to the cinemas. And thus I started writing some time ago, but until now I never really got anywhere, which is, basically, why it took me 5 years to post anything. At first I didn't like Superman having a son, but the idea grew on me, and while I still think it was a rather complex plot, I've given it a place.
Having said that, I'm not looking forward to Man of Steel, which seems to deviate even more from the original Superman, Lois being a red head and the suit having changed to the point of being unrecognisable. But enough about that. This is my thoughts of what happened after Superman Returns. I'm still not really happy about it all, but it's getting there and I'm confident enough to finally post this.
Be patient with me; I'm NOT a regular updater. I try to keep the flow coming, but I'm an impulsive writer. One moment I just keep on writing and before I know there are ten pages of story, and another moment I can only get two or three sentences on paper.
To be utterly honest, I have not a definite goal I'm working towards. I may, or may not, have Clark reveal himself, or Lois finding out about him. For now, I'm just trying to write the relationship between Clark and Lois, Superman and Lois, even Lois' relationship with Richard and Jason, but also Perry White and Jimmy Olsen will fit in somewhere. Even his mom (and Ben Hubbard to some extent) will have her place. So it can go anywhere. Sounds like not a lot of Clark, but he'll be one of the mains. If you have a good idea for a direction, I'm open for suggestions. But otherwise, I'm sure I'll figure it out.
Let me know what you think. I am looking for a BETA-reader, so if you're interested, yes please, and thanks.
Feedback is always appreciated.
On with the story!
-The Mystery Of Clark Kent-
She felt sorry for him.
He had been back eleven days and she had all but ignored him. Of course, she reasoned to herself, she had been very busy with Superman also coming back from his travels to Krypton, or what was left of it, and him suddenly appearing made her feel uncomfortable and insecure. It had made her doubt and question her relationship with Richard, then being kidnapped, together with Jason, Superman rescuing them, and the other way around. But what had confused her most was when she had visited him in the hospital. She had never seen him this way. Superman just did not get hurt. But he was really laying there in the hospital bed, and for just a moment he seemed so very human. She had seen him in pain when she pulled out the Kryptonite shrapnel from his back. But nothing had her prepared for the sight of him there, comatose, almost fragile. Secretly she had hoped he would not hear the words she said to him; that Jason was his son. But he had, and it complicated things further.
And Clark? Clark had come back at the wrong time, and for the most part was left out of all of it. But Clark was Clark; he always seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sweet Clark, who was a reporter in his own right, and a good one at that, was not like any other man she knew. He was quiet, always friendly, and all but invisible to everyone. She did not think people even noticed when he left five years ago. He had been very secretive about it, and the only thing he had said was that he would go on a trip to find himself, whatever that meant. But it was good to have him back, to say the least, now sitting a few desks away instead of opposite of her, typing away almost frantically. Probably some boring article, she reasoned. Ever since he had returned Perry had given him small assignments, to get him back in the game as the editor in chief had explained.
As if he had a sixth sense he looked up to meet her eyes, and gave her a typical cheeky Clarkish grin, as he raised his hand in a rather goofy wave. Then he went on with his typing. She had initially wondered if it was possible for a human to type that fast, but after a while she had decided it was just the way it was, and it was one of the few things, she knew of, Clark was talented at.
She stood up from her own desk and walked towards the farm-raised man. He did not notice her coming, which was obvious from the way he flinched when she laid a hand on his chair. His hands immediately stilled.
"Hey Smallville," she started, casually leaning on the backrest of his chair.
He turned around in his seat to face her, those piercing blue eyes curious, a bit shaken. She thought she saw him wince, though she had no idea why.
"H-hi Lois," he stammered, giving her a shy smile.
She leaned forward to see what he was typing. It seemed to be an article about a press conference. And she had wondered where he had been all morning. If he started to go back to the sudden disappearances and lame excuses, she would not be amused.
She hmmed. "Well, that's interesting? What's the deal on that?"
Clark's attention turned back to his screen. "It was a briefing on what plans they have concerning renovating the buildings that were damaged during the creation of Luthor's new island. It was pretty interesting."
She barked a short laugh, causing a few heads to turn their way.
"Come on, Clark, you're not going to tell me you like the assignments Perry's giving you."
He sighed and pressed the 'Save' button. Lois had sat down on the edge of his desk as he looked up to her.
"N-no, it's not what I would like. But for now, it's good enough." He stood up, leaning heavily on the desk. And again Lois thought she saw him wince.
"So, um..." She studied him closely as he straightened, then turned back to face her. "How've you been? I mean, glad to be back? Oh, have you found a place to live yet?"
He looked a bit ruffled by the train of questions, not certain where to start. He shrugged slightly.
"Yeah, um, I'm, I'm fine. A bit of a culture shock really, from where I've been by myself." He gathered together some sheets of paper that were scattered all over his desk and put them into a nice pile, before cleaning up the rest, and shutting off his computer. Then he picked up his coat as he looked around for his suitcase. Lois noticed it standing below where her feet were dangling from the desk. She picked it up and handed it to him. She thought she saw some relief cross his features.
"Where are you off to? It's only three," she asked, for a moment not letting go of the handle, unconsciously willing him to stay where he was. He did not resist.
"Um, Mr. White gave me the afternoon off. I... I found an apartment, and I can move in tomorrow. I'm going back home today to get my stuff."
"You need any help?" Lois offered. Since they had not talked to each other much since he had been back, this was the perfect opportunity to spend some time together. And since Richard was out of town and Jason with her mother, she had nothing on her hands.
He seemed to hesitate. The look on his face changed from questioning to some form of suspicion, as if he was not sure what to think of the offer.
"You... want to help... me?" He nervously pushed his glasses up his nose. She had come to know that as an unconscious quirk, especially when he was nervous.
"Of course I want to help you! I mean, I've known you longer than almost anyone around here. We were partners, remember?" Lois wondered why it was so hard for Clark to understand she wanted to make that connection, the one they had the years prior to his leaving, again. And why it was so hard for him to accept she had no ulterior motive.
"Come on, Clark," she continued. "I want to spend time with you. You're my friend."
His expression turned blank, and he just stood there, coat half on, staring at her.
"And," she continued. "I might learn more about the mystery of Clark Kent."
"Mystery?" he choked out and she just smiled. "Wait? You want to come with me to Smallville?"
Lois just nodded.
"Okay, let me get this straight: You want to go with me... Sit six hours in a bus without air-conditioning, stay at my mother's farm and then drive back another five hours back to Metropolis, and help me out moving into my apartment?"
"Yep, you got it!" Lois almost laughed at his expression. It was somewhere between horror and shock. "You're not afraid I may find out too much about you, are you?"
He seemed to gather his bearings and vehemently shook his head. "Oh, no no no! Not at all! I mean, there's just not much to do there..."
"And I'll be very busy..."
"And it's not what you're used to, and..."
"But..." he protested.
Lois sighed, deeply, before continuing. "I'll be fine. Don't worry so much. There's no specific motive, other than spending time with you, and it might even do me some good. Get out of the city; go back to basic, in the middle of nowhere..."
"You're sure?" He still sounded doubtful.
And he still looked at her in that strange Clark way. She never knew exactly what this 'Clark way' of looking was, but she could recognise it as soon as she saw it. It slightly reminded her of a frightened deer caught in the headlights of a car.
"O-okay, then." If Lois had something in her head she got it, either way. "I guess I'll be leaving within the hour, so if you can be ready at, say, four at the latest, in front of the Planet."
Lois mockingly saluted. "Yes, Sir!"
Clark put on his coat all the way and turned towards the exit of the bullpen. Now she could definitely see it; he walked with a slight, but distinguishable limp.
Clark!" Lois called out. He turned and she saw him frown as he did so.
"Are you okay?"
"Um, yes, I'm fine. Why?" She raised his eyebrows and made a face.
"What's up with your leg?"
Then it dawned on him and he shifted. "Well, you know, that earthquake thing, I was outside getting news on the black-out and I got hit by some debris." He let a moment pass before adding; "On my back."
"Doesn't look good if you ask me. Have you seen a doctor?"
He looked around, as if looking for some support, but obviously he found none.
"Uh... yeah, I did."
"H-he said, it was nothing to worry about... Um... It would just be sore for, uh, a couple of days."
Why do I get the feeling he's making the whole story up? Lois thought. Years before she had mentioned once he could take up another job in acting. They had both laughed about it, then. She had to admit to herself he had not made much excuses since he had gotten back. He seemed to take his job more seriously than before and worked over-time almost every night.
She shrugged, and then turned to walk to Perry White's office. She still had to ask the chief editor to have the afternoon off. Knowing that she never took any time off, and the fact that she had a rough week, she knew he would not make much of a fuss about it.
"Alright Clark, see you in a bit," she called over her shoulder as he made his way to the lift.
He had to admit, of course only to himself, the stab wound still hurt. It had been over a week and, honestly, he had expected it to have healed. True, the wound was gone; it had been sealed when he left the hospital, though it was still red and bruised. But the pain just would not go away. The excuses he had to make, a few times over the last week, were starting to weary him. Speaking of weary, he had never felt so tired, if he did not count the day he arrived back on earth. It had been good to sleep in his own bed in Smallville again.
But coming back to the Daily Planet was a whole different story. Lois Lane had a son... and engaged to be married, no less! From day one he was rather fond of Jason, and Richard, too, seemed to be a fair man and Clark had difficulties not liking him. That was the kind of man Lois would lean to. Not the clumsy nerd character he had adapted for himself. He was the best friend, not the lover. Before he left he had more or less accepted it, and tried to spend as much time with the petite reporter as he could without being labelled a stalker or coming on too strong. But back then she was single, and now that she was engaged he was sure it would be very hard to spend a weekend together, even if that weekend was spent at his mother's. But he had not seen his mother since he had 'checked' out of the hospital, though he had called. A little bit of parental smothering could not be so bad.
It did not take him long to get his things together. True, he had been living out of two suitcases for a week and a half. So, he stashed all his belongings in them, checked out of the hotel and made his way towards the Daily Planet.
She still had 45 minutes before she was supposed to be there, and he half hoped she would not show up. He had said yes to her proposition, but, truth be told, he did not want her to come. It was not fear of her discovering his secret; he had left that a long time ago. If she would find out, which she did before, she would find out anyway. He just was not going to help her unravel the mystery.
No, he was not afraid of that. He could not pinpoint what the reason for his anxiety really was. Perhaps it was the worry he could not be truly himself in his own home. Or perhaps... No, he could not think of anything else. He knew he should stop worrying and just accept the fact that when Lois set her mind to something she would get it done. And Clark's greatest weakness was this woman, Lois Lane.
And so he sat down on one of the benches outside of the Planet, waiting for the woman that made his mind work like crazy. So many doubts, so many insecurities... He really needed to stop thinking, or he would, he had decided, be institutionalised. Sometimes it seemed like it. How many people had three identities? Certainly not any he knew.
His thoughts were interrupted by someone calling his name. He looked up to see Lois waving her hand in front of his face.
"Earth to Clark," she said. "Penny for your thoughts?" She tilted her head as one would when talking to an excited puppy.
Clark blinked. "Oh, sorry Lois, I was just... it was nothing." He waved it away with a hand gesture and stood up, automatically picking up his suitcases. Then he looked at the clock. Almost four.
"I think we can still make the bus of four pm." He pointed to the bus stand about a hundred feet away. They both walked towards it, first Clark, followed by Lois.
"Say, why don't we take the car?" the petite reporter started, as she tried to keep up with Clark's long stride. "I mean, since Richard is out of town, I could've easily driven you there."
"Y-yeah, I know," Clark stammered. "But you see, I need to bring back my stuff, and that won't fit into your car."
"Oh... Oh well, let's get on, this is going to be lo—ng ride."
He sighed and rolled his eyes as Lois got on the bus. "You can say that," he mumbled almost inaudibly as he, too, got on.
...To Be Continued...