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Déjà Vu: Chapter 34: Deep

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A/N: This chapter comes with ‘The Tayler Warning’: Might cause choking, loss of breath, and severe twitching. You have been warned.

A big hug goes out to those of you who encouraged me as I struggled with a couple of bad weeks and lack of inspiration. Thank you!

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Déjà Vu

Chapter 34: Deep

Mitchener stood in the doorway, his fair hair falling untidily in a demented halo around his head, eyes red-rimmed and glazed. Lois saw at once that whatever he had been up to in the hours while he was gone had changed him from smooth politician to desperate man.

For an instant, the pistol drooped in his palm. “Superman…?” he rasped disbelievingly.

Lois gently extricated herself from beneath Clark and slowly rose to a standing position. She lifted her chin boldly in order to keep herself from trembling. “Mr. Mitchener, you don’t want to do this…” she began in a strong, reassuring voice.

“How did…?” Mitchener shook his head as he threw a bewildered glance quickly at the crates full of kryptonite. A frightening glint came into his eyes, and he gripped the gun tighter, steadying his aim directly on Lois. His voice dropped to its smooth gentlemanly register. “It doesn’t matter. He may have gotten in, but he won’t get out again so easily.”

She held up a placating hand toward him. “Think about this for a minute. You could kill us, true.” Okay, maybe that’s not the right tactic, Lane, but too late now… “But then you’d have to find a way to dispose of both of us – and get rid of the evidence.” She took small, slow steps toward him as she talked, keeping her voice as evenly modulated as possible. As an afterthought, she added mildly, “And if Superman found me, even with all of these vaunted ‘precautions,’ don’t you think the authorities might be close behind?”

Blind anger blazed in Mitchener’s eyes then, and he jerked the weapon toward her. “Enough with the goddamned questions!” A hysterical note crept into his voice. “I’m tempted to shoot you right now, if it would shut you up!” He was fairly shaking with rage, snarling, “They might be, they might not be! And since when does Superman need backup?”

In the corner, Clark groaned softly. Lois felt a stab of panic at the sound. How far gone is he now? Can he hear us, even through the pain…? Or worse, can he hear everything, but finds himself helpless in his ever-weakening body…?

“Do you want to take that chance?” Lois tried to keep the desperation she was feeling out of her voice, as she stepped cautiously ever closer. She had to keep Mitchener from shooting them, to hold him off until Richard could get there. And she knew that poor Clark, moaning there on the floor behind her, was no more bulletproof right now than she was.

“Now what—” Mitchener started to shout before deliberately calming his voice, “What did I say about those questions?”

Lois took one more careful step toward the deputy mayor to be sure that her body was fully blocking Superman from the line of fire. Then she covered her mouth with her hand, eyebrows rising in what she hoped looked like surrender.

Mitchener’s grim smile looked almost like a grimace. “That’s better. It will make this much easier…” His eyes drifted over to the prone form of Superman on the other side of the room, and his voice began to shake again. “I—I really should have known he’d show up…” He ran his left hand through his hair roughly, further disheveling the careful coif she had only ever seen him wear until today. “L—” He stopped the word, eyes darting toward her, and then he bared his teeth, finishing the word in a growl. “Lex… warned me that once you started sticking your nose into this situation with L & V, it would be all over… but I didn’t believe him…”

Lois tried to stay composed at this confirmation of her deepest worries and suspicions. So I was right… Lex Luthor was involved… She felt a tiny surge of pride mixed with fear. Luthor thinks that highly of my skills? Then she remembered Jason, and a jolt of fire entered her veins. Well, you’d better enjoy your freedom for now, you bastard. With Lane and Kent on the job, there’s no way you’ll be able to hide for long.

Mitchener was growing angry again, feet frozen in the open doorway. “I should never have believed him! What a stupid, childish mistake…” To Lois, his mood seemed dangerously volatile… one moment jittery, the next calm and collected, and then seething with rage. She fought to keep her head in the face of this whirlwind before her, heart pounding harder than ever. He continued, eyes focused on the Man of Steel, “…a mistake I intend to correct…”

Suddenly, her heart caught in her throat. Behind Mitchener, Lois caught sight of the face that she had been hoping to see. She felt a wave of relief roll through her. Carefully, Richard moved into view, treading on the floorboards nearly soundlessly. Their eyes met. His were bloodshot, but filled with determination. She could only imagine what hers were showing…

Richard brought a finger to his lips – but Lois didn’t need the warning. She realized she couldn’t react at all to his presence without possibly giving him away. She hastily cut her eyes back to Mitchener, and a split second later, his attention was on her again. He swallowed, and appeared to try to steady himself. “Well, Ms. Lane. It seems my plans have become a little more… complicated…” He thumbed the safety off and quickly pulled the gun's slide back. The pistol made a small but very deliberate snick as he cocked it. Lois's eyes widened and her breath caught as she saw Mitchener's index finger slip inside the trigger guard.

Several things seemed to happen all at once.

In a rush of motion, Richard tackled Mitchener, trying to wrest the deputy mayor’s arms behind his back. Mitchener jerked his arm askew to fight off his attacker… and the gun fired with a deafening explosion of sound. Lois shook her head to try to clear her ears of the noise, and saw that chance she had been waiting for since the beginning of this nightmare.

With a swift kick of her ruined heels, she knocked Mitchener’s gun from his hand. The weapon cracked against the wall, bounced off and skittered to a stop a few feet away. Lois quickly snatched the gun from the floor, just as Richard was pinning Mitchener to the floor.

Lois pointed the gun directly at the deputy mayor’s head, somehow able to keep her arms steady, despite the adrenaline coursing through them. “Stay down!” she shouted fiercely. “I know how to use a gun. Don’t think I won’t shoot you if you so much as twitch!”

Lois risked a look back at Clark, still slumped against the wall. At once, her heart stopped and her stomach roiled painfully in what felt like another backflip. Blooming across the royal blue fabric, just above and to the left of the ‘S’ shield, was a dark crimson stain. The wild shot must have ricocheted and hit him!

“Richard!” Lois jerked her head wildly toward the fallen superhero, who had not made even one sound of pain at the wound. “Get Superman out of this room. Please. There’s kryptonite!”

Richard looked over at the crates, noticing them for the first time. He nodded shortly and moved quickly over to Clark’s terrifyingly still form. Mitchener started to rise up on his elbows, and Lois took aim and pumped a bullet into the parquet flooring only inches from his hand. Splinters showered across his forearms. Even to her ears, her voice had a dangerous edge. “I said… Don’t even twitch!”

“Lois…” Richard warned, hefting Clark up carefully under his arms. She began to cast Richard an unapologetic look, but then her eyes fell on Clark, whose head was lolling to the side as Richard dragged him toward the door. Is he unconscious? Or worse…? She looked back at Mitchener, now curled up on the floor and muttering something incoherent. Her eyes narrowed vindictively. I should have drilled a hole in that baby-soft, manicured hand…

As Richard, who was moving slowly and breathing heavily with his massive burden, got close to the doorway, she realized that the deputy mayor’s cowering body was still keeping the door ajar. She couldn’t let it fall shut again… Making a wide circle around him, she caught the edge of the door in her free hand, and ordered, pistol gleaming in the light, “Give them room.”

She was almost disappointed when he didn’t argue, scooting carefully away from the door. Richard, grunting with effort, slowly dragged Clark all the way into the hallway, smearing a trail of bright blood in their wake.

As his red boots cleared the doorway and moved out of sight, Lois’ heart clenched. If not for the sleazeball still in front of her, she would be out there with him… The sound of dragging ended. “Richard! Is he all right?” she called over her shoulder frantically.

“I can’t tell right now. There’s a lot of blood, Lois…” Richard sounded uncertain, helpless.

Lois felt a rush of furious anger, and her hand tightened around the handle of the gun. A murderous red haze was clouding her mind. Lord help me, if Clark doesn’t come out of this okay… She gave an inarticulate growl of frustration out loud. But we need him alive in order to pin this destruction on him, she reminded herself. And he’s the only link we have to Luthor right now. “Richard, could you please come and take over for me?” She let a wicked edge enter her voice as she added, “I’m not sure I can trust myself not to accidentally wing him.”

Brow furrowed with concern, Richard came into the doorway, and slipped the gun out of her palm with a smooth motion. Their eyes met, and his were soft with a concern and compassion that tugged at her heart. He spoke in a low voice, for her ears alone. “It looks bad, Lois. I checked for a pulse… but I don’t even know if his heart works the same way…” He shook his head. “How long do you think he can last?”

“Once he’s away from the kryptonite…” Emotion prevented her from finishing the sentence. Blinking back the tears that threatened, Lois gave Richard’s shoulder a grateful squeeze. Then she raced to Clark’s side. Kneeling beside him, she tried to inspect the wound, tearing the thin fabric of his blood-stained suit away from it with her fingernails. Richard was right, there was a lot of blood. But the wound was deep, and she had no idea how she would begin to try to get the bullet out…

Clark’s color seemed a little better, but he was cold, too cold, and he hadn’t moved at all. Why isn’t he getting better? All at once, she noticed with a jolt that the door was still open. Radiation must still be seeping out into the hallway…

“Richard!” she called again, beginning to panic. Her mind was still racing futilely. It wasn’t like there was a convenient piece of kryptonite blade stuck inside Superman that she could remove. Or a conveniently handy toolbox with pliers inside either.

“What?” Richard called back from inside the room.

“Bring Mitchener out into the hallway! We have to close the door… block the radiation!” Lois picked up the edge of the long, red cape, and tried to staunch Clark’s wound. The blood soaked through the silky cloth in seconds.

She heard the steely sound of the door shutting behind her, and she turned to see Richard still holding Mitchener at gunpoint, the deputy mayor’s back slumping against the wall. Mitchener was muttering faintly again, eyes skittering erratically between the gun, Richard’s grim face, the gory smear of blood on the floor and the superhero to which it led.

“Mitchener!” she snapped, a sudden, terrible fear gripping her heart. “What kind of bullets are in that gun?”

Mitchener set his mouth in a stubborn line and went silent.

“Tell us, dammit!” she shouted in desperation. That bullet could have been somehow laced with kryptonite… “If he dies, so help me, you’ll wish—”

“Let me, Lois,” Richard interrupted. Stepping close to the deputy mayor, he placed the gun beneath the man’s chin and murmured something into Mitchener’s ear.

He went positively white, his eyes going wide, and started to hyperventilate. “I—I don’t know! It was Luthor’s gun, I swear!”

Richard’s voice lowered dangerously as he stepped back again. “That had better be the truth, buddy.”

For a moment, all thoughts of kryptonite bullets left her mind. Lois had never seen this side of affable Richard White before… She stared at him with a mixture of surprise and admiration. Beneath her fingers, there was suddenly a small movement, startling her back to reality. She lifted her fingers away from the wound to see what was happening.

The seeping of blood from the injury had stopped, and the skin around it was slowly changing from a sickly greenish-white color to a healthier pink. With a motion that eerily reminded her of a worm burrowing its way out of an apple, the bullet came into view, working its way to the surface. As it broke the air, there was almost an audible pop and it rolled off of his skin, hitting the hardwood floor with a faint clink like a dropped penny. Lois lifted it between her trembling fingers. It was slick with blood, but to her eyes it looked perfectly plain – dull, ordinary metal with no tell-tale greenish tint.

She looked back at the wound and gasped as she watched the gaping hole miraculously knit itself together, until the skin was smooth and unmarked, save for the dried blood around it. Clark’s breath hitched, and he coughed noisily, his eyes fluttering open.

Although they were still cloudy with pain, the azure eyes that met hers filled Lois with radiant hope and love. “Oh, thank God!” she cried in an echo of his first words to her a while ago. She started to reach for him, longing to cover his face in ardent kisses… only to remember that they weren’t alone. Swiftly, Lois turned back to Mitchener and Richard. They both looked relieved, but for very different reasons.

Even though Lois wanted to throw her arms around Clark, with the two of them watching, she had to satisfy herself with a simple, “Are you all right?”

He pushed himself up to a sitting position with careful slowness. “I’ll be fine, now that I’m away from the kryptonite.” He gave her a slow, reassuring smile, as the traces of pain started to fade from his white face and the color returned.

And now that Clark was starting to recover, and there was no gun or gag to hold her back… She rose to her feet and stalked over to the deputy mayor. “Tell us, Mitchener,” she snarled. Her voice shook with anger before she got it under control. “Why would you ally yourself with a maniac like Lex Luthor?”

He looked like he was trying to hang on to his last vestiges of pride as he squared his shoulders and returned stiffly, “And why should I tell you? If I want any chance of a fair trial—”

“Good luck with that, after you kidnapped Lois Lane and nearly killed Superman in front of witnesses,” Richard drawled laconically from beside her.

Lois shot him an impatient you’re-not-helping kind of look, but quickly added, “Your only chance is to cooperate. Otherwise The Daily Planet will skin you alive, and the citizens of Metropolis will nail your sorry hide to the wall.”

Mitchener only tightened his lips, looking away from them defiantly.

Lois's mind continued to race. Frustration caused her throbbing head to pound even more. What can I say to get him to open up? I want to know what’s happened to Luthor… no, I need to know, dammit! It’s my son’s, my love’s – my entire family’s life that’s at stake here!

“There’s a funny thing, Mr. Mitchener…” a rich voice intoned suddenly beside her, startling them all. There stood Superman radiating authority, despite his torn and gore-stained uniform. “…about working with someone as slippery as Lex Luthor. He may offer you the world, but in the end he’ll be the only one to reap the benefits… while his accomplices are left with all the blame.” He trained his piercing gaze on the deputy mayor’s face, locking eyes with him in a hard stare.

Or worse, Lois snarked inwardly.

Superman never took his gaze from Mitchener, and even though the deputy mayor looked as if he were trying to tear his eyes away, he seemed transfixed for several seconds. It was as if Clark was unleashing the full force of his Superman persona and authority to break down on his opponent's defenses.

“Okay, okay!” Mitchener gasped, trembling. He rubbed a hand across his haggard face, and slumped back against the wall, mumbling, “I’ll cooperate with you… If only to help put that devil in jail…”

Richard and Lois traded a surprised glance. Strangely, once faced with Superman, the man had dissolved in an instant. The two of them stepped back to let Clark get closer, Richard lowering Mitchener’s gun a little.

“Tell me, Mitchener. Where is Lex Luthor?” Superman's voice was low but full of an undeniable power.

Mitchener crumpled, words spilling out of him in a torrent. “I don’t know… I just spent the last few hours looking for him… I found the car I rented for him abandoned on the side of the main highway several miles from here… Maybe they walked… hitchhiked… jacked a car…”

At Mitchener’s words, Lois’ heart sank. He’s disappeared again? The thought of that madman on the loose sent a shiver down her spine.

Clark’s mouth set into a grim line. “Believe me, I will do everything in my power to see that Luthor finally comes to justice. But you must tell me all you know. Why would a respectable man like you get involved with a scoundrel like him?”

“But that’s just it,” Mitchener defended, eyes drifting down to the floor in shame. “He wasn’t a scoundrel… at least not back then. We met when I was first starting out in business, trying to strike out on my own. You see, he was fascinating. A man who had risen to wealth and influence from the depths of Suicide Slum, all on his own… I wanted to know more.” Mitchener let out a short, bitter laugh. “He said he saw something of himself in me… and I was flattered.”

Superman nodded, but his eyes were cold. “Luthor’s always been good at telling people what they want to hear.”

Mitchener reddened, but pushed forward. “When he went into prison the first time, after nearly destroying California, I vowed to have nothing to do with him again. He contacted me anyway… he remembered my family had an old cabin out here and wanted to purchase it for a significant sum, but keep it under my name.” He grimaced. “I see now it was a mistake to sell it to him, but I needed the cash…”

Feeling genuinely curious, Lois put in, “Why? With all your family’s money and influence, I would think money wouldn’t be a problem.”

“But it was! I was trying to get out from underneath my family, be my own man… And that would have been the end of it, except that a fraternity brother of mine got into a spot of trouble.” Mitchener risked another glance at an impassive Superman. "He ended up in the same prison as Luthor, and when I went to visit Tandy, he must have seen me or gotten wind of my visit… I received a message from him a few days later, reminding me about our past association.”

Looking down again, he continued. “I don’t know why I actually responded… He had a lucrative suggestion. I guess I fancied myself smarter than he was – above the mistakes he had made…” He trailed off, clearly reticent about continuing.

Hubris strikes again! Lois thought sadly.

“Go on,” Superman pressed.

“He wanted to form a high-price construction company firm. We both needed the cash, and he said the architectural and real estate markets would be more and more lucrative in the coming years... plus we would be benefactors of the city. He turned out to be right; contracts started pouring in, and we were cleaning up, all over Metropolis.” He shifted his eyes uncomfortably under their astonished gazes, and raked his hand through his hair. “Then, when the building began, he suggested cutting corners to save money... hiring the cheapest contractors, like Robinson's...” He swallowed. “On the city council, he got me to advance and promote measures to relax certain aspects of the building codes.”

“And you didn’t see the danger to the city?” Lois asked in disgusted disbelief.

“But I did!” Mitchener protested. “After it became apparent that the infrastructures of most of the new buildings were dangerously compromised, I got worried and went to him. I complained; I said it had to stop. I had my future to think of – I wanted to be known as the politician that rescued the city not the one who sank it. He laughed at me and told me I was in too deep now – that if I told anyone what I knew, he'd make sure that everyone knew that I was directly implicated. Then he started to scare me – he was clearly a lunatic, a dangerous one. He said the time was coming when everyone would see that Metropolis was like a house built on sand, and even Superman wouldn't be there to stop it...”

A sickening pit opened up in her stomach. Hearing her suspicions confirmed from out of Mitchener’s mouth filled Lois with a cold dread. She thought, I could have been one of the people trapped in the collapses, or Richard, or Jason…

Mitchener’s voice dwindled as he seemed to realize just how badly he had been duped. “He reassured me that I could be like Rudy Giuliani – a stalwart leader in a crisis. And I had been investing the capital to help finance my upcoming run for the senate…”

Richard, who had been basically silent during Mitchener’s confession, suddenly spoke up. “But then Superman came back to Metropolis.” He avoided Lois’ eyes as he added, “And everything changed.”

“Yes,” Mitchener morosely agreed. “When the earthquake hit, and I found out what Luthor had done… and what he'd been planning to do to the city…” He shuddered. “The buildings would have toppled like dominoes, causing a chain reaction…”

“It would have been difficult to lead in a city that didn’t exist anymore,” Superman said quietly.

Mitchener closed his eyes in defeat. “Afterwards, he radioed me a message. Fly out to get him, he ordered, or all of Metropolis would know the part I played in the city’s destruction.” His fists clenched in impotent anger. “He dared to mock me, and said that instead of Guiliani, I might be a Ray Nagin – a survivor after the storm – but it was up to me to make what political hay I could out of the situation...” He looked back up at them, tired eyes wide and pleading. “I was appalled, but there seemed to be nothing I could do at that point…"

Lois hardened her heart against any compassion for this petty villain and moved in for the kill. “Surely you realize that by aiding and abetting Luthor you’ve put countless innocents and maybe the whole city of Metropolis at risk again -- just to save your own hide?”

“I had no choice. Ms. Lane, you have no idea how ruthless he is ...” His voice trailed off as Lois's eyes flashed and he seemed to remember that she had been Luthor’s ‘guest’ on more than one occasion. “If I had refused, one way or another, my career -- no, my life would have been over,” he whimpered.

At those last words, Mitchener seemed to deflate, finally done with his dreadful litany.

Superman placed a strong hand on the man’s shoulder and hauled him to his feet. “The police will be here soon. They are only a few miles away by the sound of it. You can turn yourself in, and finally start to make amends for what you’ve done.”

Mitchener nodded once, but then turned his broken gaze back toward Lois. “There’s just one thing more, Ms. Lane… how on earth did you ever connect me with Luthor? We took such pains to keep our business dealings hidden and under the radar...”

Lois hesitated for a moment. “I didn’t, not really,” she quietly admitted. “I’d only connected you to Chase Robinson and that prison friend of yours. All I'd had about Luthor were suspicions.”

Mitchener’s face crumpled at that, as he realized that he'd given everything away himself in his amateurish attempt to kidnap her.

Clark turned to her then. “Ms. Lane, Mr. White… once everything is wrapped up, you don’t need to stay. I can take care of things from here.” His formal tone belied the deep concern he bore for her in his eyes.

She could only imagine all the things he needed to take care of – all the evidence, making sure the kryptonite was safely removed, not to mention searching for Luthor. “Thank you. I’m very anxious to…” She put as much urgency and love into her eyes as she dared in front of witnesses, “…to see my son.”

- - - - -

Lois stared out of the viewscreen of Richard’s plane, the noise of the engines the only sound. Since Clark was otherwise occupied, Richard had graciously volunteered to fly her back to the house on the river, where Perry and Jimmy were waiting with Jason. She had worriedly asked him how Jason was as soon as they had entered the cockpit, and he had assured her that the little boy was fine, just anxiously awaiting her return. But except for those few brief words, they had hardly spoken to each other for the past hour.

Lois finally broke the silence. “Thank you, Richard.”

She looked over at him. He gave her a short nod, eyes ahead.

“You didn’t have to help out. God knows, after everything, I don’t deserve that from you.” Her voice was low and penitent.

“It was no problem,” he responded after a long pause. “You needed the help. As bad as things are right now between us, I couldn’t stand idly by. And you would have done the same for me.” He finally turned to look her straight in the eyes.

She nodded. “Cl…” She stumbled over mentioning Clark to Richard, but decided to forge ahead. “Clark was really grateful, too. He said you were very insightful in helping to locate me.”

Richard gave her an ironic laugh. “Insightful?” He shook his head, defeated. “I made some lucky guesses… but it was Clark who did all the work, and put the final pieces together. Clark was able to piece together your train of thought from that cryptic list with arrows. I could read the words, but I couldn't see the connections you’d made…”

Overcome with emotion, Richard looked away again. With an air of grudging honesty, he continued. “Somehow Clark could, and explained them clearly to me. It was like Clark could read your mind. He immediately saw how everything fit, and came to all the same conclusions that you did.”

Richard’s face turned to hers again, and her heart ached at the naked honesty in his eyes. “Lois, you were always a mystery to me -- it was part of your charm, really. But today I realized that I knew you for five years, lived with you, worked with you every day… Now I feel like I only scratched the surface. He comes back for a few weeks and it’s like he knows you better than anyone.”

Lois really didn’t know what to say to Richard’s stark admission. She was struck with the complete silence that comes when someone says something absolutely true, but absolutely painful.

After a silence that stretched a few moments too long, she finally asked, trying to change the subject, “How did Jason handle all of this? Clark said he was pretty upset.”

Richard sighed. “After Clark left, I got Jason calmed down a bit. I told him that Mister Clark was going to find Superman, and I would fly out and meet Superman in his plane.

I said that together we would find Mommy. But before I could go ask Perry to watch him, he grabbed my arm to stop me. He begged me, ‘Daddy, I want to help you find her. Please let me go with you.’”

Even at his young age, he’s so brave. Lois marveled. The poor thing was probably terrified the whole time I was gone.

“I gently explained to him that it would be too dangerous – that Daddy and Superman were the best people to help her right now. I said Mommy would want her little boy to be safe.” Richard’s voice turned a bit mournful as he added, “Jason got a determined look on his face…” He gave her an unreadable glance, “…the same look that I’ve seen on Superman’s face… but he didn’t argue.”

“I went to tell Perry, what was going on – just a quick overview, without saying how much Clark was involved, other than mentioning that he was going to find Superman. Perry was very concerned, and agreed immediately to watch Jason. Jimmy came in during my explanation, and heard most of the salient details. Then I hugged and kissed Jason goodbye, and headed for the parking garage as quickly as I could.”

Lois could tell that this was getting very difficult for him by the set of his jaw. “If you don’t want to—”

“No, I need to tell you,” Richard insisted, shaking his head determinedly. “When I got to the car, Jason was already waiting there.”

Lois gasped. Another power is surfacing?

“He must have used some kind of super-speed to beat me there. Before I could even ask him how or why, he begged me again to let him come along. His words are still clear in my mind: ‘Daddy. I want to go help Mommy. Please. I can do things – I saved her before, on the bad man’s boat.’” He sighed heavily and passed the back of his hand across his eyes. “My heart broke in two right there.”

Lois felt much the same, the unshed tears from her terrible ordeal beginning to form at the corners of her eyes.

His voice cracking, Richard went on. “I assured him that Daddy and Superman could take care of it. That we both cared about Mommy very much, and would make sure she gets home safe. I asked him, hoping he would understand, ‘Can you trust me, Jason? Can you do this for me?’ Jason bit his lip and agreed, just as Perry and Jimmy came rushing into the parking garage frantic with worry.”

Lois gripped the armrests of the co-pilot’s chair tightly. “What did they say?”

Richard shrugged slightly. “Perry gruffly apologized, telling me Jason just slipped away. I told them everything was fine, that Jason was just upset. Then I asked if they would take him back to the house and keep an eye on him. Before I left for the plane, I made sure to ask him, ‘You will be a good boy for Uncle Perry, won’t you?’ and gave him another hug.”

“Oh, Richard…” There was so much she wanted to say about his understanding and generosity, but before she could find the right words, she suddenly felt the plane begin to descend.

“We’ll be there soon.” Richard shifted, leaning forward slightly, and the way he held himself told her that he needed to concentrate on the landing. The moment had passed, so she kept quiet until they had touched down on the water and were gliding up to the landing platform at the Riverside house.

As she unbuckled herself, her eyes fell on the most welcome sight she’d had since Clark had recovered from the bullet wound. Her little boy hit the deck running, shouting with joy at the sight of her face in the window of the seaplane. As she quickly moved to the exit, he rushed down the stairs of the deck to the platform, launching himself into her arms the instant she set foot on the boards.

“Mommy! You’re safe!” he cried. He squeezed her tightly, maybe a little super-tightly, but Lois didn’t care.

“Yes, honey, I’m safe.” She stroked his long, fine locks as the tears that had threatened earlier finally rained down her face in a flood. “I missed you so much.”

Her cheek pressed against the side of his head, she held him, rocking him back and forth, soaking his hair and even some of their clothing. By this time, Perry and Jimmy had walked down the deck to greet Richard, Perry taking Richard into a rough hug.

“Um, hello?” a high, timid voice called out from the level above. “I just heard. Is everyone all right?”

Lois lifted her head from Jason’s shoulder to see Clark, awkwardly waving from the deck. If he was here, it probably meant he hadn’t found Luthor… yet.

Everyone turned to watch Clark clumsily make his way down the stairs, huffing like he had run a marathon. To his credit, Richard refrained from rolling his eyes at the obvious performance.

“We’re fine, Clark,” she said, hugging Jason again. “We’re all fine.”

Jason looked around at the adults for a moment, and then turned back to her with a serious expression. “Mommy,” he began. Jason's next words caused a variety of reactions. Perry was shocked, Jimmy a little nervous, while Richard looked away, and Clark and Lois both became very embarrassed. "Can we stay here tonight instead of with Mister Clark?"

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

It’s recommendation time again! (I’ve been slacking):

It’s Written in the Stars by sanalayla – A Smallville/Superman Returns crossover. The two Loises switch places! Kind of a ‘Freaky Friday’ thing. ;) I love it!

And now for some items to help get you into the holiday spirit!

If you are a fan of the Spider-Man movieverse (my primary fandom, if you hadn’t figured that out yet), you’ll really enjoy Spider-Man’s Wonderful Life. It’s written by my very good friends mark_clark (and is also posted now on his LJ) and Georgia Kennedy.

And all Clois shippers should visit the LJ community 12days_of_clois. Seventeen authors – many of which are fan favorites here – are contributing holiday themed one-shots and short-form stories from December 11-25, 2006. Although many will be Superman Returns-themed (including mine), Smallville, Lois and Clark, and possibly other Superman universes will be represented.

Next: Chapter 35: Closed Doors


( 64 comments — Leave a comment )
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Dec. 10th, 2006 04:25 pm (UTC)
Well, I'm making good on my promise - I'm neglecting the start of church to read this fic. And what a great chapter it was!

*promises she'll come back and leave a review, then Super!speeds out of the room*
Dec. 10th, 2006 07:47 pm (UTC)
Well, about an hour from now (I just got back from church and lunch), I'll be keeping my eyes peeled! If I go over an review all of your chapters that I've neglected before then, would that help?
(no subject) - sean_montgomery - Dec. 10th, 2006 07:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 10th, 2006 04:46 pm (UTC)
Oh, this was as nerve-wracking as I thought. Thank goodness you didn't leave us on quite such a scary cliffhanger as before! But, talk about awkward!

Richard’s face turned to hers again, and her heart ached at the naked honesty in his eyes. “Lois, you were always a mystery to me -- it was part of your charm, really. But today I realized that I knew you for five years, lived with you, worked with you every day… Now I feel like I only scratched the surface. He comes back for a few weeks and it’s like he knows you better than anyone.”

Bingo! You did a great job here in wrapping up this comment from the movie and showing that Richard is coming to terms with the fact that he is not the right person for Lois. I still feel for Richard, though. And it was great to hear about Jason's emerging superpowers. But my heart belonged to poor Lois throughout this whole segment. Mitchener's hubris cost them all so much -- let's hope we'll still come to a happy ending.
Dec. 10th, 2006 07:58 pm (UTC)
I was feeling bad about leaving you guys on so many evil cliffies - I figured even the ECQ takes a holiday. ;) But it was still a nice one, right?

I have been wanting to show you all that Richard has had some time to think about why this happened, and is starting to come to terms with it. He's not happy, but he's not delusional, either.

A happy ending? I can oblige. All the loose ends tied up? Not so much. ;)
Dec. 10th, 2006 05:06 pm (UTC)
Oh wow! What a chapter! Wow! Your teasers were killing me, but I'm so glad to see everyone is alright!!! Lois was brillant!!! Well, it's Lois Lane, after all, isn't she?! But the way you write her actions, feelings and all, wow! So professional! I wish I could do the same! -___- Oh and Clark... Aww! Geez, you really scared me!!! *hugs him* And Richard... I repeat myself, I know, but God, I'm so in love with Richard in your story!!!!! *___* And Jason! And his super-speed!! Yay!! And of couse, your ending is so great!!! I really enjoyed that chapter miss! :D Thanks for that fanfic!!! **hugs you**
Dec. 10th, 2006 08:10 pm (UTC)
Yes, the teasers were mean, but they served a purpose. They gave me encouragement. I knew that most of the scary stuff would be over in the first half, but I wanted to make sure the second half was just right.

You pretty much liked everything I wanted to be good! *hugs you Super!Tightly*
Dec. 10th, 2006 05:36 pm (UTC)
Out of the mouths of babes. *LOL* Loved that last line.
Dec. 10th, 2006 08:11 pm (UTC)
I couldn't help myself. I wanted a nice little cliffie... one that was a tiny bit LESS evil. They're gonna have some 'splaining to do to Uncle Perry...
(no subject) - mr_beeto - Dec. 10th, 2006 08:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 10th, 2006 06:24 pm (UTC)
Oh my god! Okay you're not a MEAN MEANIE anymore but lady you sure know how to make my heart pump!

I loved the whole Mitchener issue, didn't feel sorry for him one bit though. He shot Supes! He deserves to be treated like the scumbag he is for helping Luthor. Will we be seeing our fave baldie soon?

The Richard/Lois conversaton was my favorite part, I adore Richard and I felt his pain. You conveyed it right as Singer would do it. Cheers!

Jason developing new powers is really interesting. But the line at the end killed me. Are they going to tell him the truth now?

As always you have stunned me Barbara.
Dec. 10th, 2006 08:18 pm (UTC)
Whew! Glad I have been taken out of the MEAN MEANIE corner... :)

Mitchener was definitely a scumbag - pompous and duped by Luthor. Henchmen never prosper.

The Richard and Lois conversation was one of the easy parts to write. I don't have any trouble with them for some reason, as painful as the emotions are there.

Jason's power? An interesting side-effect of the intense stress, just like on the yacht. Hopefully with his daddy to help, he'll be able to control it better.

And the truth? Absolutely. That's coming in the next few chapters. :)
Dec. 10th, 2006 06:32 pm (UTC)
Look! A real review this time!

I LOVED Superman's recovery from the bullet - that was very cool. And I love that you keep Richard as such a great guy, because that was the feeling I got from the movie too. The way that they recount past conversations by repeating what others said is very realistic. How many of us do the very same thing?! (Of course, to have Superman's ability of mimicking the voices would be truly helpful, wouldn't it?) And Jason has super-speed, yay!!

Now, quotes!

She let a wicked edge enter her voice as she added, “I’m not sure I can trust myself not to accidentally wing him.”

*snicker* There would be no "accidentally" about it, I'm sure. :P

“There’s a funny thing, Mr. Mitchener…” a rich voice intoned suddenly beside her, startling them all. There stood Superman radiating authority, despite his torn and gore-stained uniform.

Total...*heartflutter* *sigh*

And of course, the last line:
"Can we stay here tonight instead of with Mister Clark?"

I'd love to hear/see Lois stumble over THAT explanation to her boss! Haha!!

Great chapter(s) as usual!! Thanks for the update!
Dec. 10th, 2006 08:32 pm (UTC)
That recovery thing with the bullet was just a little nod to the X-Men - Wolverine's rapid healing is much like that. I can't remember whether I've seen something similar in Smallville or L&C or not. But it was the mental image I had...

The two reported conversations (Clark, then Richard) were items I had been working on for a while. It's tricky to make them sound right. Clark's was detailed and exact, Richard's more loose and summarizing. And you're right, we tell each other what other people said all the time!

Jason's super-speed - see above reply for that (I feel weird repeating all the same stuff sometimes).

I WANTED Lois to shoot Mitchener. But of course, it wouldn't have been a good idea - so she just struggled. And Superman, no matter how torn and battered, is still Superman, right?

The last line - well, you WILL get to see the reaction. That's immediately at the beginning of Ch. 35. :)
Dec. 10th, 2006 06:50 pm (UTC)
Will try and read/review sometime soon. I'm just not in a happy place at the moment.

Thanks for the plug and I hope people will check out Spider-Man's Wonderful Life.
Dec. 10th, 2006 08:38 pm (UTC)
Yes, yes everyone!!! Check it out!!

And I hope you have more time and less stress very soon. Another big hug from me.
Dec. 10th, 2006 07:41 pm (UTC)
Yay!!! He's saved!

Leave it to little kids to speak their minds without regard to embarrassment! I can't wait for the next chapter!
Dec. 10th, 2006 08:48 pm (UTC)
Yes, little kids are definitely good at cutting through the crap, aren't they? Hee.
Dec. 10th, 2006 08:21 pm (UTC)
Wow this was great. I'm glad to see that Superman made such a quick recovery. I was also glad to see the Mitchner finally decided to work on their side, thought he didn't have much of a choice. I really like the Richard came through for them despite all that he and Lois have been through.

The conversation on the plane was heart wrenching. JAson really wanted to help find his mommy, and I really liked that he wanted to be brave like Richard and Clark. I like how he beat Richard to the car, very determined just like his parents. Richards a good man, just like Lois said and you have really done a great job showing how much he cares for them even through all that has happened.

I like the ending, and what Jason said, I wonder how they will cover that.

Alright I'm ready for more...

Dec. 10th, 2006 08:56 pm (UTC)
Yes, Mitchener was, in the end, a smart enough man to know when he was beaten. The only way he could make it better is by spilling the gory details.

Clark, Lois, Richard, Jason - all very determined and good people. It's harder when there are so many issues to deal with isn't it? Not black and white at all. Which makes for some lovely angles for stories.

How will they cover this? Read on!
Dec. 10th, 2006 08:42 pm (UTC)
And the truth? Absolutely. That's coming in the next few chapters. :)

Ummm... why do I fear this despite the fact that you ended it with a smiley?

*cowers in a corner*
Dec. 10th, 2006 08:59 pm (UTC)

Why does everyone assume that I will throw some vicious curveball into this? *looks around innocently*
(no subject) - rogue_lane - Dec. 10th, 2006 09:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 10th, 2006 08:43 pm (UTC)
*added* :D
Dec. 10th, 2006 09:02 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Hope you drop in to comment as much as you can! We're a crazy fangirl and fanboy bunch!
(no subject) - solitary_zero - Dec. 10th, 2006 09:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - wikkibird - Dec. 10th, 2006 10:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - solitary_zero - Dec. 10th, 2006 10:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - wikkibird - Dec. 10th, 2006 11:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - solitary_zero - Dec. 10th, 2006 11:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - htbthomas - Dec. 11th, 2006 01:49 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - solitary_zero - Dec. 11th, 2006 08:56 am (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 10th, 2006 11:29 pm (UTC)
"'Can we stay here tonight instead of with Mister Clark?'"

Kids say the darndest things.

I have to say, though, Barbara, I was quite surprised by the semi-happy ending of this chapter; I guess I've just gotten so used to your horrendously evil cliffhangers that I'm utterly thrown for a loop when you throw the masses a bone, haha. But no, in all seriousness, I really liked how this chapter delved a bit more into Richard--he's starting to really understand just how deep Lois and Clark's relationship goes, and even though he's not happy about it, he's not going to try and break them apart. Superpowered or not, he's quite the hero (hey, if I'm going to like Richard White, I'm going to like him fully--so there!).

I also really enjoyed how you got into Mitchener's mind; twisted psyches are always fascinating to unravel, and you did a marvelous job of it.

And how you portrayed Jason? Priceless.

I await your next chapter oh-so-impatiently.

Dec. 11th, 2006 01:44 am (UTC)
Hey, even Evil Queens need a day off... :) You all deserved a happier ending to that whole ordeal. I mean, where could I have gone from there? I had already shot Clark - and this ain't The Death of Superman... ;)

Richard IS a hero. The movie showed that. He was willing to go back for Superman and fly through stormy seas to save Lois. That wouldn't change just because his heart was broken. He also remembers how Superman saved hin and his family, even though the superhero thought he'd lost his love forever. The roles are now reversed.

So like him. Please!

It was actually the unraveling of Mitchener's psyche that was causing the fits this last week. It was really hard to get it just right. I kept getting stuck. But some back and forth emailing between my beta and I ironed out the problem. I am much happier now.

Jason... *hugs him* What a can of worms he's just opened...
(no subject) - mithah - Dec. 11th, 2006 04:37 am (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 11th, 2006 04:24 am (UTC)
I'm afraid words fail me this time - so I'll just say i loved the chapter!

yay for Clark being okay and Yay for Richard ... and I really just want to cuddle Jason. :D

Dec. 11th, 2006 08:02 pm (UTC)
Hey! You read... you reviewed... you liked! I'm happy! :)
Dec. 11th, 2006 05:56 am (UTC)
Great chapter as always! I loved the part with Richard realizing that Clark knows Lois better than he ever could. I feel that was very poignant and just how it should be. It sucks for Richard, but Lois is meant to be with Clark.

Nice to see some of the anwsers to the mystery. I'm still anxious to know about Luthor!!!

And how is Perry going to react to the news that Jason let slip? Is he going to figure it out or will Lois/Clark be able to cover?

Wonderful, wonderful job. I'm excited to read the rest! Hope you have a better week this week.
Dec. 11th, 2006 08:04 pm (UTC)
I hope I have a better week, too! Only 6 more days of school until the holidays... so it can't be THAT bad.

There still is a lot to clean up and deal with, isn't there? And some of the answers to the mystery is a good thing. (Don't beat me if you get to the end without all questions answered, though...)
Dec. 11th, 2006 07:49 am (UTC)
oh, that was very, very good! A fantastic chap with lots of emotions, sorrows and surprise.
Richard with the gun in the hand and Mitchener in front of him. I'm interessting in his words...*gg* He seems more smarter than in other situation. He grows in bad moments I think.
Good that you only play in thoughts of kryptonite bullets! My heart stoods nearly still when I'm reading this!
And Jason is cute! Unbelieveable boy with a warm heart. I love your describtion of him.

Great chapter!

lg Sissi

Btw: I hope you have understand my joke last time? It wasn't meant as critize or something! I've made the picture for one of my superman stories on my page and I think it's very christmassy...
Dec. 11th, 2006 08:10 pm (UTC)
I think you're right - Richard is quite heroic in bad situations. Poor guy. I really hope he'll get someone great in the sequel.

Yes, no kryptonite bullets... this time... I couldn't do that to you all!

Jason reminds me a lot of a boy I had in my Japanese kindergarten class, Yuro. I pretty much write what I imagine Yuro would say. :)

Joke? *facepalm* What joke? I can't remember... I'm sure I wasn't offended though. It takes a lot to offend me. :)
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