Two fluff n' stuff in a row? Let's angst it up a bit shall we. I was on the fence about posting this one but a second set of eyes and a little coaxing convinced me otherwise. Therefore, I will credit this leap from the plane as a tandem jump. Thanks Meg. As always thank you for reading.
Truly an amazing sight, watching the only other being on the planet like you grow and develop. What is also amazing is when you are privileged enough to call that other being son. I can't help but stare as we glide soundlessly through the night sky, his palm firmly gripped in mine. Jason wants so badly to fly, but he hasn't gotten the taking off part of his abilities yet. Not something I ever encountered, but I'm no expert on what a mix of human and Kryptonian DNA will produce. Once I take him up, he can maintain a wobbly hover or a tiny bit of forward momentum, which, in my opinion, is quite enough for a ten year old.
Tonight, he's pulling us forward with more force than normal to our designated conversation spot. Jason never asks why we fly all the way to Gotham City to have these private conversations, nor does he care that the building I always choose is Wayne Towers - which is fortunate, because I'm not prepared to answer the line of questions that might follow. I can't help feeling nervous because it's been at least a month since he last asked to visit this location.
A strong cross breeze shifts him into my path, and I push him back over; a playful gesture he used to laugh at, but not tonight. Even through the breeze, I can hear the semi-disgusted puff of air he expels from his nostrils. With a flick of his wrist, he readjusts some the hair that had flown into his face and pulls us on.
His hair is really long. Long by Smallville standards, not city standards. I came to find this out on the roof of the Planet one afternoon.
"I can cut his hair this weekend if you'd like," I had smiled broadly at Lois. Seeing Jason go his sixth week without a haircut, I had assumed she was too busy to take him and had breezed through a few barber books. I was sure she would be proud of my new "dad talent".
Her gaze had then drifted past me, off into the distance, her mouth contorting uncomfortably as if she was ashamed to say the next words.
"He just wants to fit in," she'd said, her eyes finally coming back to mine - apologetic, as if it was somehow her fault Jason didn't blend with his peers. "The kids at his school wear their hair a little long. I told him it was fine, so long as it didn't go past his ears."
I'd sighed with a smile, the whole "children-need-boundaries" speech right on my lips.
My smile dropped immediately.
"Two against one," I complained softly, not unintentionally. The rules of the family vote - the only way we could think to solve parenting issues stemming from a child having three active parents.
"Sorry," she'd responded just as quietly, leaving me to my musings on the rooftop.
It's past his ears now. Down to his jaw line, in fact, but I don't say a word - two against one. He is big for his age, already cresting five feet. Often times, people mistake him for a twelve or thirteen-year-old. Naturally, he's started hanging out with children in that age range. I don't agree with this, but Lois does and so does Richard. That "older-kid influence" lead to a less than pleasant conversation only a few months ago, when I discovered Jason had joined the equivalent of a gang; skateboarding through Metropolis Central Park, snatching wallets. A tiny dose of super speed made the task considerably easier, and had Superman not been flying by at the time, it would have gone unnoticed.
"If I thought calling the cops on you would do any good, I would let them put you in juvenile hall for the weekend." I'd watched Richard pace the floor, beet red, his blood pressure sky high. Somehow, I got the feeling this was not the first crime Jason had committed. Only the first I was privy to.
Lois grabbed his hand to stop him from pacing the room.
"He doesn't mean that," she had said, rolling her eyes as Richard pulled from her grasp and took a seat on the opposite end of the room, "but you do know you are grounded. Chores until you pay back all of the money, including the money you didn't physically take yourself."
"That's not fair!" Jason bolted from the chair to the center of the room. "They took almost five hundred dollars!"
"You knew that, and yet you continued to hang out with them after school!"
At this, he'd flopped back into the chair nosily. In a few years, that action would destroy a lot of furniture, if he wasn't careful.
Lois' tirade had then continued for several minutes more, but Jason wasn't listening; I could tell. In those blue eyes, I could see a faraway look, the same one Perry caught me with on more than one occasion in the bullpen. That deep internal longing to be anywhere but here, and the frustration of knowing you have the power to make that happen.
I hadn't gotten a word in. Speaking up would've been ridiculous. I'd felt like such a fool sitting in the living room at Riverside Drive dressed in my bright blue uniform and red cape that insisted on fluttering at the most inopportune times, as I'd left the French door open. Lois and Richard were both still dressed in their clothes from work, Jason in his skate clothes from the park. I was out of place and couldn't help but feel like a square peg screwing up what would otherwise be a normal round-hole type of life.
Jason looked up then, and I caught his eye. Ever so slightly, I'd motioned with my head toward the open door, our joint escape. He'd nodded in return, his head barely moving.
"Lois, would it be alright if I took Jason out for a while to talk?"
She'd looked at me flabbergasted. She must have been in the middle of saying something important, but Jason had been the focus of my attention for the last few minutes. Embarrassing. I never wanted to undercut Lois when it came to parenting, as she had five years experience on me, and without her and Ma, I would be completely lost.
"Fine," she'd conceded, but only after a look in Richard's direction, which he waved away nonchalantly with a hand.
We'd been perched on the edge of Wayne Towers for an hour before either of us spoke.
"You have anything to say about your actions today, son?"
"I'm sorry. It'll never happen again, I promise," he'd recited speedily from rote. I'd wished I could believe him.
Somewhere during the minutes that had ticked by, he'd leaned his head against my shoulder and fallen asleep, the quiet whisper of his breath even more soothing to me than his mother's heartbeat. We didn't leave Gotham City until the sun breached the horizon, two against the world.
He didn't come to the office anymore after that, preferring instead to spend his after-school time with Grandma Ella – Lois' mother – instead. I didn't mind sacrificing the workday bonding if it meant he was staying out of trouble. He'd grown out of drawing and playing tic-tac-toe at my desk. Lately, I spent more time watching him dolefully whenever he sat at Lois' desk, texting his friends. However, anytime she came over to talk, Jason made sure to throw a glare in my direction. One against one; my only other known weakness.
I'd only kissed Lois twice since my return. Both times, I was the first to pull away; both times, Jason saw. The first was the night before her wedding. She just needed to know, never saying what, specifically. Whatever it was, she must have gotten her answer, because she asked me to come to the ceremony even as our lips parted. I did. I even mustered a smile through the nausea that plagued me during the vows, during the exchanging of rings, and during the tears she shed before their kiss. Jason grabbed my hand tight enough to crush it, if I were human, gritting his teeth against his own sob, while he whispered to me, "It doesn't count if you kiss her first." I didn't move.
Our second, what I vowed would be our last, happened a month ago. Lois was inconsolable. In another wave of youthful rebellion, Jason reverted to former companions, deciding it would be cool to get an earring. Not once did he bother to check if the green stone labeled "genuine emerald" in the 99 cent bin was a cheap knockoff, namely synthetic Kryptonite. Two solid days in either direct sunlight or a full spectrum lamp, and he was still pale and lethargic. Richard was in London, thoroughly convinced he was out of his element, and that I could handle it. I took them both to the fortress. Inevitably, a moment of comfort brought Lois to my arms, and eventually, her lips to mine. Jason was in the other room, staring through the adjoining wall, the fortress' rejuvenating irradiation having brought his enhanced vision to full bloom.
Every past event - good and bad - now swirling through my mind almost makes me overshoot our landing in Gotham, but Jason doesn't fear falling, and feeling him release my hand and plummet toward the rooftop brings me back to reality. I manage to grab him before his feet hit the dusty surface. Now that his strength is increasing, a landing from this height would give the building quite a tremble.
He steps away from me immediately as if my touch is toxic. He brings his hand to his face, flicking a long band of dark hair away from his eyes. I know it is necessary, given the length, but the motion reminds me so much of his mother.
"Why don't you love us?"
I flinch at the question. The tone is harsh, not seeming to fit the mouth that speaks it.
"You know I love you."
"What about Mom?"
"You know I love your mother too."
"Then why don't you tell her the truth?"
I groan into the palms that are suddenly covering my face. He didn't ask this question much as a child, but lately it seems like it comes up every day.
"It's not that simple."
"It's been five years. How much longer before it becomes easy?"
"What do think will change by me telling her, son?"
I decide to turn the tables and figure out where this sudden interest in merging Clark and Superman is coming from.
He flicks his hair from his face again, only to have it fall back into his eyes when he drops his gaze to his feet.
"I don't know," he shrugs, "I guess we could be a family."
"You already have a family." That hurt. "Your mom loves you very much, and so does Richard; he can be there for you when I can't."
"He doesn't like me."
"That's not true," I shake my head fervently at the statement, yet I am curious to know what made him think that.
"You don't see the way he looks at me. When I break stuff that shouldn't be broken, when I accidentally set things on fire, or we play little too rough and I hurt him. He looks at me like I'm some kinda freak, like I've grown a second head."
"You're not a freak."
"Jus' half of one," he looks up, believing he's offended me, "I don't mean you."
"I jus' want my dad, my real dad."
"I can't just walk in and replace Richard."
"Why not? No one would ever know. I wouldn't tell them. You and Mom obviously still love each other." His chest heaves against what threatens to be an outright cry into the wind.
"I can't." I feel horrible telling him this, but Lois and I both made our choices. Even if I know in my heart each day, we've made the wrong ones.
The child across from me grits his teeth like he always does when he's angry. Poor thing doesn't stand a chance. An overly sensitive side inherited rightly from his father, and a sometimes tempestuous display dropped in from his mother.
"I hate you."
"You don't mean that."
I cross my arms and stare at him. There's no point in talking when he's like this. He wants a screaming match. Must be a teenage thing he and Richard participate in, but I am determined not to walk into the trap. It helps that Lois warned me about it beforehand. A few calming exhales and the red coloring leaves his face.
"I'm sorry," he mumbles to his feet.
"Apology accepted," I return sternly in my father voice I'd learned from Jor-El. After all these years, it still doesn't feel natural. "But I want you to understand why–"
"Because you don't want to break them up, even though you love Mom so much you haven't looked at another woman in the five years I've know you as my dad. Because you wouldn't want anyone to ever be able to say that Superman was the reason why Lois White left her husband. Is that about right?"
I don't respond. Some of it is true. Most of it is true. I still don't respond.
"So blame me."
I smile, the hinge of his argument just enough to break the tension. Gently, I place a hand on his shoulder.
"Thank you son. I appreciate your willingness to sacrifice yourself. It is admirable but–"
"Richard isn't coming back from Paris." He cuts in quickly before my speech gets off the ground. "I called him and told him the truth. I told mom too. She says it's ultimately up to you but we agreed it's time the two of you got it together."
I suddenly can't find my voice, and stand there staring dumbly at him in surprise.
He smiles. It's a real one tonight.
"Family vote, Dad," he reminds, "two against one..."