Chapter 28: Trust
Richard cast another glance at his computer screen. “I’m kind of busy right now… is it important?” he said in a polite voice.
Clark continued to hold himself firmly in the regal posture of his alter ego. “Yes, it is.”
A small frown marred Richard’s face, and he clicked his mouse a few times – to hide what he had been working on, perhaps? Then his face cleared and he turned his full attention on Clark. “All right. What is it?”
“If you wouldn’t mind,” Clark began, his native Midwestern courtesy blending into his request, “May we talk privately? On the roof?”
“Sure…” Richard agreed doubtfully and stood from his chair, the puzzled frown returning. Clark stepped back to let Richard move past him, and the two men headed for the stairwell.
Lois didn’t know what to do. Should she join them? Should she stay behind? She began to chew on her thumbnail… but her dilemma was soon resolved. As Richard entered the stairwell, Clark beckoned to her to join them, and then the door shut behind the two men.
Even then, she hesitated. Okay, Lane. Clark just asked you to come along… so why are you so terrified? He’s the one who should be reticent… For some reason, the very solution she had suggested earlier today – tell Richard the truth – now seemed absolutely insane.
Lois grimly forced her rigid limbs to move, and walked briskly, if somewhat jerkily, to the stairwell access door. She looked into the empty walkway past the door, and could barely register their voices and footsteps as they ascended quickly. You can do it, Lois. One foot in front of the other. Clark didn’t fall in love with you because you were a timid wallflower… and neither had Richard, if she were being perfectly honest. So up she went, plucking up her courage with every step.
When she reached the roof access door, she gently opened it just a crack to peer out at them. Maybe she could just watch the whole thing from here… Richard seemed at ease, if a little confused, and Clark still appeared confident. She hadn’t missed the revelation yet, at least…
“So…” she heard Richard say from her vantage point. “What did you want to talk to me about?”
“The reason I asked you up here, Richard, was…” Clark hesitated. He turned directly toward where Lois was peeking through the doorway. Pleading blue eyes, at odds with his calm face, sought her support. “…Lois and I have something to tell you.”
“Lois?” Richard asked in surprise.
Well, she was good and caught now. Grimacing, Lois pushed open the heavy door and stepped all the way outside.
Frowning, Richard asked again, “Why Lois? Is this something about your investigation?”
Lois came to stand beside Clark. “No, more about yours…”
“What? I don’t understand…” Richard looked perplexed, increasingly on edge because of her close contact.
Clark cleared his throat, and Lois noticed that he was still using the deeper pitch usually reserved for Superman. “Richard. In the short time I’ve known you, I’ve really come to respect you. You are a thoughtful, intelligent, and brave person…”
“Thank you, Clark, but…?” Richard eyes traveled between the two of them, confused and annoyed.
Clark continued in a soothing baritone. “So it’s not lightly that I… we…” Clark reached out for her hand. For a moment, Lois debated taking it, but then placed her fingers into his palm, holding onto it like a lifeline. “…have decided to tell you something very important.”
Suddenly, a series of emotions flashed across Richard’s face. Lois thought she could see deep confusion, suspicion, shock, anger, worry and disbelief… and with Clark standing there proudly, she was certain that at any moment Richard would piece it all together.
“Lois and I—” Clark began, but Richard cut him off abruptly.
“What is going on here?” He turned on Lois, a spark of anger in his eyes. “Just this morning, you all but admitted to me that you were starting a relationship with…” He didn’t finish the thought, and took a shuddering breath. “But was that just a cover? For…” He stuttered out the name in angry disbelief, “C—Clark?”
She met his fiery gaze with her own unflinching one. “Let him finish,” she said quietly.
Richard’s lips set in a grim line and he turned to Clark again.
Clark pressed on boldly, unhurriedly. “I have seen what a good father you are to Jason, Richard, and how much you obviously care about him and Lois. I know this is going to be very hard to accept… but please remember we have the utmost faith in you.” Clark’s voice lowered even further. “Yes, Lois and I are now together. She wasn’t lying to you – because…” He hesitated. “I am Superman.”
For a few tense seconds, Richard stood there in shock. His face went slack, his body went rigid, and only his eyes remained mobile. He frantically looked between the two of them, and Lois began to fear for his reaction, squeezing Clark’s hand tightly…
Suddenly, Richard unfroze and laughed in disbelief. “Is this some kind of joke? This is crazy…” It was an absurd thought – she of all people knew how absurd it seemed – but Richard trailed off at Clark’s steady, unrelenting gaze. For the first time, Richard seemed to take in Clark’s regal posture, his authoritative presence.
With a simple gesture, Clark removed the glasses from his face with his free hand, piercing Richard with the full force of his azure stare.
Lois could almost hear an audible click as the final pieces fell into place in Richard’s mind. He staggered back a step, spluttering, “But you, and she… how could… it’s not…” He covered his eyes with a trembling hand. “Oh, my God…”
Clark and Lois exchanged a momentary disconcerted look. This was not the reaction she had been expecting! After all the other things he had figured out on his own, Richard seemed completely taken aback by this news. And recalling the way he had behaved since Clark had asked to speak with him, it was obvious he had not been as close to the truth as they feared. Oh, no… did we do the right thing? she asked herself apprehensively, watching Richard closely.
Clark remained an impassive statue beside her. Only the slight tightening of his hand on hers gave her any indication that he was reacting at all.
Finally, Richard seemed to decide which question to ask first. “How long have you known, Lois?” He dropped his hand and looked at them in haggard shock.
Even though Lois had been expecting this question, it was still difficult to answer. The memory of their previous conversation about Clark’s height and weight was still fresh in her mind – and she hadn’t known then, even though she had known when Jason was conceived. But again, the whole memory issue was not any of Richard’s business… With a mental groan, she went with, “Just a few days.”
“But… Jason…” Richard started to pace in front of them, working out the timeline in his mind. “You didn’t know back then…?” He shook his head, trying to reconcile what he knew about Lois’ character versus this new information. “I can’t wrap my head around this…”
Clark spoke up in a reassuring voice. “I know it’s hard to believe… and I’m sorry we kept it from you before… I have always protected my ‘other identity’ very carefully. It’s been really difficult for me to tell anyone. The danger alone…” He swallowed, and went on. “But we felt you needed to know this secret in order for everyone to begin to heal and move on.” His voice softened, and he added gently, “Jason will need all the adults in his life to be there for him, to help him.” Lois wondered if he was thinking of his own adoptive parents as he spoke. “We can’t do that if we’re not all on the same page.”
“No…” Richard said, obviously still reeling in astonishment. His eyes slowly drifted to Lois and Clark’s still clasped hands. “I thought I had it figured out, you know?” A note of bitterness began to infuse his voice as he talked. “I was so sure you and the Big Guy got together during that General Zod business, and that afterward, his guilt drove him halfway across the universe…”
“That’s not the reason he left…” she began hotly, leaving the fact that she and Clark had gotten together during the Zod affair an unspoken truth between.
“So. You didn’t know about his double life back then?” he asked her in angry disbelief. “Who did you… sleep with…?” His eyes narrowed as he punctuated those words. “Was it Clark… or Superman?”
Lois recoiled from his naked anger. Clark flinched beside her. “Now wait just a minute…” he growled in defense of her.
“No, you know what? It doesn’t matter.” Richard’s fists clenched. “What matters is that you and she had a relationship… which obviously produced a child…. and no one ever bothered to tell me!” He spun away from them.
Neither one of them knew what to say – at least nothing that might not make the situation worse. What had they expected? That he would calmly accept Clark’s or Superman’s replacement of him? The best thing to do is to let him vent right now…
Preoccupied with watching Richard in sadness, Lois was momentarily startled by the sound of Clark's voice in her ear. “Lois,” he said tightly, and she turned to look expectantly up at him.
There was no mistaking what he was about to say. She marveled inwardly that with only a few days of remembering his secret, it as almost as if there had been no gap of time at all. “You have to go?”
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Richard swivel back to them. Clark simply nodded, looking over his shoulder to the south.
“Go ahead. I want to research Robinson and Sons some more before the day’s over. I’ll see you back here later?”
“Yes… but I’ll do those flyovers before I come back. Are you…” He looked pointedly at Richard.
“I’ll be fine.” Her heart swelled at his protectiveness. She wanted to reach out to him, to kiss him goodbye, but in front of the man whose heart she had broken…? She had more tact than that.
He smiled that smile – the one he saved just for her. “I know you will.” Eyes full of emotion, Clark rose into the sky, spun around once to reveal his Superman colors, and sped off in a blur.
Richard let out a shaky breath behind her. “It’s one thing to know it, and another to see it, isn’t it?” he said in wonder.
“Yes…” Lois said softly, a touch of awe in her own voice.
Richard walked over to the edge of the roof, and gazed in the direction Clark had taken. “A lot of things are making sense now… the way Clark and Superman returned to Metropolis at the same time, the way he always looked at you, his frequent absences from work…” A look of comprehension settled over him and he said in amazement, “It was that dinner earlier this week, wasn’t it?” Richard turned around and stared directly into her eyes. “He spent too much time around that kryptonite I found under the deck, and it weakened him enough for you to figure it out!”
Lois dropped her eyes from his and nodded.
But Richard wasn’t finished. “He must have known it was under there… why did he agree to help me?” he asked, mystified.
“Because that’s the kind of guy Clark is,” Lois looked up again and answered quietly, simply.
“And… Oh, my, God! Babysitting his own son… all the things I said to him yesterday about what I was planning… how he seemed to be so good with Jason…” He groaned. “Why would he do that?”
She whispered, still in agony at watching his pain. “Be—”
“—‘Cause that’s the kind of guy Clark is?” he finished sharply for her, hostility overtaking him. “Apparently the same kind of guy that would steal any kind of secret moment with his illegitimate son… who would steal an engaged woman out of her happy family… and welcome her back into his bed with open arms!” He stopped just short of shouting in her face.
Lois had been feeling sorry for him, but now her ready temper exploded at the accusation in those words. “Do you think I’m some kind of slut, Richard White?” She was the one in Richard’s face now. “Yes! I spent last night at his apartment. But I slept on the couch! Alone!”
She knew that his emotions were coming out of a place of deep hurt and resentment, but she plowed on. “What kind of mother would I be if I jumped into bed with another man, with my only child asleep in the next room?” Her voice was turning shrill with affronted rage, so she lowered it and spat, “Not that it’s any business of yours!”
Richard didn’t step away from her as he replied in a tone as low and menacing as her own. “Just like you didn’t jump into my bed the moment he left you high and dry?”
Before she was even aware of what she was doing, the flat of her hand smacked across his face. Richard hardly flinched. Lois stepped back, still full of trembling rage, but devastated by the look on his face. “Oh, Richard, I’m so sorry…” She reached a placating hand toward him.
He cringed away from her, almost crumpling in on himself. In a small, broken voice, so different from the anger he had displayed mere moments ago, he said, “Don’t worry, Lois. You two were right – you can trust me. For the sake of Jason, you can trust me with this knowledge.”
“Richard… You didn’t deserve this… I really did love you…”
His head turned slowly back to hers and she saw bitter tears shining in his wounded eyes. “But it wasn’t enough, was it? He was just too hard an act to follow.”
“Richard…” Her voice started to break as well, while her heart clenched painfully.
“Just… go. I need to process this on my own. It’s too much…” He twisted away from her again, staring with inward-turned eyes over the boundless cityscape.
Next: Chapter 29: Connections