July 31st, 2006

Forlorn Clark SR

Then And Now, 1/3

Title: Then And Now
Author: htbthomas
Summary: Clark Kent returns to the Daily Planet, after a five-year absence, and discovers that his true love, Lois Lane, has a son. The question – is the boy his? My own take on Clark’s feelings, pre–Superman Returns.
Author's Note: Although the story begins with a flashback from Superman II, most of this is my own supposition of how Clark feels when he returns to the woman he loves. This was written and published before the movie premiered (mid-June 2006), based on the novelization, and as such, any differences between this and the movie version are completely my own. Thanks to mark_clark for looking this over.

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Then and Now

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Next: Chapter 2: Vision
Forlorn Clark SR

Then And Now, 2/3

Title: Then And Now
Author: htbthomas
Summary: Clark Kent returns to the Daily Planet, after a five-year absence, and discovers that his true love, Lois Lane, has a son. The question – is the boy his? My own take on Clark’s feelings, pre–Superman Returns.

Then and Now

Chapter 2: Vision

Then…

It started with gentle touches. Lois seemed to know that she would need to take the lead here. Sup – no, Clark, only Clark, now – had never really done much more than kiss a woman.

And so he did. Tentatively at first, but as Lois responded, he grew more bold. He encircled her with his arms, and pulled her into him hungrily. After a few minutes of this, she pulled away.

“Ah… as much as I like kissing you… aren’t you interested in a bit more?” she asked, a hint of teasing in her voice. She looked half-amused, half-chagrined.

He chuckled. It was hard to know how to behave around Lois. He was a man of contrasts, after all, mild-mannered yet confident, ineffectual yet strong. In his new life as a human, he was going to have to decide which sides of his personality were truly him.

In this case, he decided to be completely honest. “Yes,” he said, blue eyes capturing hers. “I am. But, you see…” he trailed off, unsure how to continue. He had done so many amazing things in his life, but never this.

“I know,” she assured him, reading his mind. Her eyes twinkled impishly. “But I’m sure you’ll be a fast learner.” She gently took his hand, and placed it on her satin-covered thigh.

The heat he felt there caused him to close his eyelids. He drank in her soft curves with his hands, slowly, languorously. He pushed up the nightgown – how had she brought a change of clothing here, anyway? – suddenly wanting skin-on-skin contact…

Now…

Clark’s eyes fluttered closed a moment, as the memory of their union flashed through his mind. He repeated her name softly. “Lois.”

He took a moment to take in her appearance. She had let her hair grow; it now cascaded past her shoulders in chestnut waves. She seemed younger somehow, healthier. Had she given up smoking?

But the annoyed expression on her face, and the brusque voice were pure Lois Lane. “I said I’ve got it, Richard. You must think I’m some sort of fragile china doll.” She stepped purposefully down the steps to the main floor of the newsroom, carrying a large file box in her arms, purse threaded through one arm, cup of coffee held in the other hand.

Clark grinned, reminded again of her fierce independence. The man who trailed behind her was wearing a similar expression. Is this the Richard that Perry mentioned? He seemed confident, with brown hair and eyes, and was dressed in a well-cut suit. Clark decided he must be, as the man replied, “No, Lois, I know you’re not that breakable. Can’t you just accept my help every once in a while?” he kidded her. This was said with the air of a subject they’d been over ad nauseam.

She walked across the room, toward an office on the far side. “When I want your help, I’ll holler for it,” she shot behind her, never stopping to look back.

Richard followed her good-naturedly. This must be her new partner. I can remember being treated exactly the same way, Clark thought ruefully. As she pulled open the door with the coffee-less hand and placed a knee in the opening to push it open the rest of way, he enjoyed watching her struggle. Richard was there a moment later, holding the door so that she could slide all the way into the office.

Clark held back from making his presence known. He enjoyed watching her. It was a sight he had missed for such a long time. And now he knew where her desk was located.

He began to walk toward her office, to greet her in his own clumsy way, when something he saw stopped him in his tracks. Lois put down the box, set her coffee and purse to the side, and placed a hand on Richard’s upper arm. She kissed him tenderly on the cheek.

In shock, Clark found himself focusing his super-hearing on them. He knew this wasn’t the most ethical use of his powers, but…

“How late do you think you’re going to be working on the story?” Richard asked her.

“Pretty late. I still have several sources to call, and one of them keeps pretty strange hours.” She shifted some papers around on her eternally messy desk. “And then I have to write the ‘award-winning’ expose after that…”

“All right, then. Do you think you could fit dinner in there somewhere? Jason and I could bring some Chinese food…”

“That sounds good…” She was obviously distracted.

“Lois…” Richard said in a long-suffering way.

She straightened up, and crossed back to him. Giving him another kiss, she murmured, “It sounds wonderful.”

Still stunned, Clark added the telescopic vision and zoomed in on them closely. Richard kissed her back, clearly enjoying her closeness.

She raised a hand to stroke his cheek, her hazel eyes looking into his brown ones. “You’re too good for me, Richard. I’ll see you later.”

Her hand seemed to drop from his face in slow motion. He zeroed in on a flashing bit of diamond on her left hand. An engagement ring.

“Amazing, isn’t it?” Without him realizing it, Jimmy had come to stand beside him. “Lois Lane, tough-as-nails ace reporter, in a serious relationship.”

He tried to recover. It wouldn’t do for Jimmy to see how shaken he was. “Uh, wow, you’re right! So, this Richard…” he asked nonchalantly, “have they been together long?”

“Oh, yeah, I keep forgetting how long you’ve been gone!” Jimmy exclaimed. “You’ve never met Richard!” He began walking toward the office Clark had just been spying on, motioning for Clark to follow.

He reluctantly put one foot in front of the other, feeling now less sure than ever that he was meant to come back here. Lois… was engaged? To another man? His staunchly self-sufficient, take-no-prisoners Lois was settling down?

He felt a little sick to his stomach. Why did I ever think this place was like coming home? They do say, ‘You can never go home.’ He felt like turning around right there.

But he pushed his fears aside. Even though I am as vulnerable to Lois as I am to Kryptonite, in I go… Clark followed as Jimmy pulled open the door, to stand uncertainly in the doorframe.

“Good morning, Mr. White, Miss Lane.” Jimmy gestured behind him. “Guess who’s back?”

The two of them turned to look at him standing there. Richard with mild interest, Lois almost without recognition. He raised his hand in a small wave. “Hi.”

He didn’t know what he was expecting from her reaction. Lois did a double take, and then exclaimed, “Clark!” She walked over and gave him an awkward hug. “How’ve you been?”

“Um, okay, okay. Finally back from seeing the world…” he managed. What did you expect, Kent? That she would throw herself into your arms again? You know it’s your fault that she remembers nothing…

“That’s great,” she said in a friendly tone, turning to Richard. “This is Clark Kent. He used to be my partner a few years back.”

Richard offered his hand, shaking it with a firm grip. “Nice to meet you, Clark. I’m Richard White.” He nodded his head toward Lois. “Lois’ fiancé.”

His stomach turned another flip at hearing that confirmed. He tried to act happy for them. “Congratulations. She’s a catch, this one.” He paused, reflecting on Richard’s last name. “White? As in Perry White?”

“The very same. He’s my uncle. The journalism bug runs in the family.” He looked fondly at Lois, and added, “If he hadn’t offered me a position here, I would never have met Lois.”

Lois smiled back at him, but a little less brightly. “Yes, we were very lucky,” she agreed, a smidgen uncomfortably. Turning back to Clark, she said, “Well, it’s great to have you back, Clark, but I need to get back to work on this story… That goes for you, too, Richard.”

Her fiancé held up his hands in surrender. “All right, all right. I’m going. Don’t forget dinner, okay?”

“Okay,” she mumbled, a pencil already between her teeth. She was immersed in the files again.

Richard brushed past him on the way out of the office. “Nice to meet you, Clark. We’ll have to trade Lois stories some time.”

“Yeah, uh, we will,” Clark said to his retreating back. He quietly left her to her work. I guess if I held out any hope that she would be glad to see me, it’s gone now. He slowly walked back toward his desk

Once there, try as he might, he couldn’t concentrate on anything. He had a list of assignments to begin researching, but anytime he looked up, he would catch a glimpse of Lois, busy at work.

So, once again, he found himself zooming in on her face. Her face, screwed up with concentration, biting on the end of her pencil. He chided himself, what are you, a lovesick puppy? Much more of this and you’ll become Super-Stalker. Faster than a high-speed camera, more powerful than a restraining order…

He slid his eyes back to the task at hand, but just before, he caught a glimpse of a photo on the wall beside her desk. A photo of Superman and Lois Lane, from the days when he first appeared. Did she still care for the superhero? Or was it a reminder of days gone by?

Beside it was a family photo. Lois, Richard, and… a little boy. The boy was curled up in her lap, smiling in an impish, Lois-like way. Lois had… a son? He was floored.

His thoughts suddenly drifted back to the conversation he had spied on. Richard had mentioned a Jason… He would bet that was their son’s name. As he studied the picture more closely he noticed that the boy definitely looked a lot like his mother. But staring into the camera, above that telltale grin, were a pair of piercingly blue eyes.



Next: Chapter 3: The Meeting
Forlorn Clark SR

Then And Now, 3/3

Title: Then And Now
Author: htbthomas
Summary: Clark Kent returns to the Daily Planet, after a five-year absence, and discovers that his true love, Lois Lane, has a son. The question – is the boy his? My own take on Clark’s feelings, pre–Superman Returns.

Then And Now

Chapter 3: The Meeting

Then…

Clark woke slowly, feeling the sensation of a warm body snuggled against his. So it was real… he thought, a happy grin beginning on his face. He lifted his right hand, the one not trapped by Lois’ pleasant weight, and brought it over to gently stroke her soft brown hair. As he did so, he studied her face again, this time up close. Her eyes were closed in slumber, lips slightly turned up in happiness. The worry lines between her brows had softened, as if she were finally at peace.

Kissing the top of her head softly, he knew that he had found peace himself. These few years of being unable to show her how he truly felt were finally over. And now that he had more time to reflect, it was very strange that he didn’t really feel all that different. His powers were gone, sure, but he still felt strong, confident and ready to face the world. Maybe it was because of the love of the beautiful, strong-willed woman in his arms.

She began to stir beside him, wriggling in the silver sheets that made up the bed. “Mmmm. What a way to wake up…”

Clark bent his neck down to give her a soft kiss on the lips. “Good morning,” he murmured, before catching her bottom lip to draw her into a deeper kiss.

“Good morning, yourself,” she replied with a goofy smile when the kiss ended. “You know, I don’t usually move quite so fast…”

“You know me, Lois,” he kidded her. “Faster than a… except, not anymore, huh?”

“Yeah,” she said.

They left the subject hanging between them. He knew she was thinking about what he had given up, all for her. Correction. All for them. It was the right decision, he was sure of it.

She changed the subject. Lois was never one to leave a pause in conversation. “So… this place. Do you come here often?”

“Not often. I come here when I need to think, or use the library…” He nodded toward the ruined crystal console. “But it’s not home.”

“Yes, you said you had an apartment in the city?”

“I do. But what I meant was Smallville. Where I grew up.” Which reminded him of the farm, the waving stalks of corn, his mom’s homemade pies… “I can’t wait to take you there.”

“You mean…wait.” She blinked a few times. “You really grew up on a farm? Superman, the last son of Krypton, grew up in Nowheresville, Kansas?” She shook her head, amazed. “When you revealed that you were Superman, I thought all of that backstory was just a front, a cover to protect you.”

“It’s Smallville… but, no, I was raised as plain old Clark Joseph Kent. Well, not ‘plain,’ but you know what I mean…”

He could see the exclusives flashing in her eyes, and just as quickly, see her dampen the urge because of her devotion to him. He knew she would never betray him – he would stake his very life on it. His own very mortal life, now.

He continued, “My mother will be thrilled to meet you. She’s heard so much about you already.”

“Your mother? The woman in the crystal last night? Or…?” A brief surge of panic stiffened her. “Oh, no, Clark. The woman who raised Superman must be expecting someone just as ‘super.’”

He smoothed down her hair again. “You are perfect, Lois. The perfect partner. Fearless, brave, loyal, devoted, brilliant… she’ll see that in an instant.”

She relaxed. “If you say so. Throw me to the lions, I can take it.” Moving to the edge of the bed, she stretched and yawned. She then slapped her hands together and rubbed them for warmth. “I’m starving. What are we having for breakfast?”

“Oh,” he said sheepishly.

She turned to look at him. “What?”

“I, you know…” he made a swooping gesture with his hand, “went out and got dinner last night, but…”

“You don’t have anything now,” she surmised.

He shook his head, eyes downcast.

“I guess we have a walk ahead of us, then…” she said in a practical way, and headed off to change.

His grin widened. That’s my Lois…

Now…

All day, his memories of the relationship he had with Lois before leaving had warred with the reality of returning. The sky was darkening outside the windows; his first full day back to work was ending. He had spent hours only half-focused on the mountain of paperwork and research.

He smiled again, remembering that day. They had somehow found a car to rent, and driven that ugly green sedan back toward Metropolis. He had so many dreams about their new life together, and they had all come crashing down in that one sleazy diner…

But seeing that picture of Lois’ little boy, he felt stirrings of a fresh hope. Could it be true? Could their union have produced a… child? It seemed impossible… he had always assumed that his Kryptonian DNA would be incompatible with a human’s. In fact, he had been so terrified of hurting any woman in the heat of passion that the night with Lois was the only one he had ever spent. And he had been depowered at the time.

Maybe that was it, though… if he had truly been made human… maybe he had also been granted compatibility with humans? Could Kryptonian technology really do that? He found it difficult to grasp.

Yet that photo… the boy’s age… He had to admit that the possibility existed.

But what could he do about it? Go ask Lois about him? He could just see how that would go…

“Err, Lois… so… you have a son? How old is he? What is his birthday? Does he seem… um… strong for his age?”

No. That was not the way to go about it, for sure. She would think he was crazy, anyway, for prying into her personal affairs. After all, they were no more than colleagues, not really even friends anymore. He would have to bide his time, ask around without causing any suspicion…

And then a thought hit him. What if it is true? What does that make me? An absentee father? He groaned, and put his head in his hands. I ‘knocked up’ my girlfriend, erased her memory, and then left her alone for five years? What kind of schmuck does something like that?

At that moment, Jimmy passed by his desk. “CK? Are you all right?”

He lifted his head. “Oh, yeah, I’m fine, Jimmy. Just trying to get back into the swing of things.” He added for good effect, trying to appear a little nauseous, “And I don’t think those fish and chips I had at lunch really agreed with me…”

“Poor Clark,” Jimmy commiserated. “I shouldn’t have taken you there. I forget that not everybody has the same iron stomach that I do.”

“Oh, don’t blame yourself. I’ll be fine. I think I brought along some Alka Seltzer…”

“Well, I was about to invite you to get some dinner, as well, but… I guess not.”

Clark was ready to get out of there anyway. Maybe he could do some better thinking in his apartment. “Thanks for thinking of me. I’ll probably just have some soup and crackers at home.”

“Okay. See you tomorrow, Clark.”

“See you.” He rose from his chair and started packing up his things. At that moment, the elevator opened. The smell of take-out filled his sensitive nostrils. Mmm. I wish I hadn’t pretended to be sick. I really could go for some…Chinese?

He glanced upward. Walking across the floor were Richard and the little boy of the photo. Richard had left about an hour ago, just as Lois was going into a meeting. Clark hadn’t thought much of it at the time, but now he vaguely remembered that Richard was going to bring Jason with him when he got dinner.

When the two got to Lois’ office, Richard set down the containers of food, and then leaned down to Jason. Clark tuned in to listen. “Now, wait here for a moment, okay? I’m going to check to see how long Mommy is going to be in her meeting.”

The little boy nodded, and Richard ruffled his hair before leaving.

Now that Richard was gone, Clark could really concentrate on the boy, sitting quietly on the chair. His hair was straight, framing his face. A moment later, he blew on his overlong bangs to clear them from his eyes. In person, those eyes seemed bluer than ever. He tried to find something else that might suggest that Jason was his, some feature, some gesture…

The boy’s eyes locked with his. Clark smiled, and raised his hand in a small wave. Jason waved back, shyly, and then hopped out of the chair.

Oh, no… he’s headed this way… He pushed his glasses back up his nose nervously, and bent down. “Hello, there. I’m Clark. Who are you?”

“Jason. My mommy and daddy work here.” He looked around at the desk – with stacks of papers, and no personal items. “Are you new? I haven’t seen you before.”

The kid had certainly inherited his mother’s keen eye and sense of curiosity. “Well, kind of. I used to work here, a long time ago. I came back again.”

“Where did you go?”

“I was traveling.”

Jason’s eyes sparkled with interest. He must also share Lois’ love of adventure. “Where did you go?”

Back to Krypton, he wanted to say. Something about the boy made him want to be as honest as possible. But before he could come up with a convincing lie, they were interrupted.

“Jason!” Lois walked over to them with a concerned look on her face. “Your daddy told you to wait in my office.” The boy frowned a little at being caught.

“We were just talking, Lois. He’s a nice kid.”

She placed a hand on her son’s shoulder, concern softening. “Yes, he is. I see you’ve already met.” Clark nodded. “This is my son, Jason.”

Clark held out a hand to shake. “Nice to meet you, Jason.”

Jason took it, grinning, and shook it, the boy’s small hand engulfed in his own. “Nice to meet you, too, Mister Clark.”

Clark wanted to ask a few more questions, but she immediately turned her attention back on her son. “Jason, go on back to my office. We don’t want that food to get cold.” He nodded, and ran back, meeting Richard in the doorway.

“Well, Clark, talk to you later,” she said as she turned away. “I hope you had an interesting first day back at the Planet.”

“Sure,” he replied, but she was already out of earshot. More interesting than I ever expected, he added mentally. He watched the happy family talk together a little while longer as they started their meal.

As he stepped out of the building several minutes later, on the sidewalk in front of The Daily Planet, he realized that the world had gone on without him in more ways than one. Without Superman, somehow civilization had continued to flourish. Without Clark Kent, Lois Lane had also. And grown into a caring mother with a devoted family. Had he any right to upset the happiness she had clearly found? Absolutely not.

The loneliness that had always been a deep part of his being settled in even further. Suddenly, his super-hearing picked up a terrible screeching sound, like metal being ripped apart. He had hoped to avoid showing himself as Superman so soon after his return to the Planet, but if there were people in danger…

He sprinted forward, loosening his tie and shirt as he ran. Faster than the eye could process, he was in the air and speeding away. He zoomed past the windows of the newspaper building, the iconic globe, and out of sight.

If he had not been so focused on heading for the site of the accident, Superman might have seen Lois, Richard and Jason glance out of the windows of her office in astonishment. As the red and blue figure faded from sight, Richard looked at his fiancée. He saw something there in her eyes that he had never seen before…

THE END…?