A/N: Aaaaaaaand, after a longer than expected break between chapters, here I am again. I guess my Christmas vacation didn’t provide me as much free time as I had hoped.
Just in case you missed it, though, I published a little Christmas one-shot in the future of this universe, called “Christmas Times Five.” I’d be much obliged if you would check it out!
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Chapter 35: Closed Doors
Clark crashed through the doorway of the lead-lined room in the cabin, blue eyes ablaze, and gathered her into his strong arms. There was no greenish glow this time, no closed doors, no gag or bonds… just the two of them. Alone. Together.
Lois knew in some small portion of her subconscious mind that this was just a dream, a replaying of the scene with the script rewritten the way she wished it could have gone…
Lois ran her hands up between them, undoing buttons as her fingers traveled upward – hadn’t he been wearing the costume before? – laying the palms of her hands flat on his hard, muscular torso. Clark wasted no time in doing the same, his hands lifting the hem of her blouse to caress the small of her back.
He captured her lips gently between his own as she slid his shirt off of his shoulders. She had been waiting for this for so long, desperately waiting. Lois pushed him backward a little, just enough to let her slip her blouse over her head. She regarded him a moment as she lounged there half-clothed, eyelids lowered in desire.
Clark’s eyes widened as he recognized her look, and then the flame she had seen before began to positively smolder. His broad chest descended upon hers, and the feeling of their mutual arousal sent the room spinning…
Lois’ eyes popped open. Crap, just when it was getting good…
The clock on the bedside table read 4:07am. She groaned and shifted in the bed, eyes adjusting to the darkness. She had been struggling to go to sleep – and stay asleep – most of the night, disturbed by terrifying dreams of Luthor… or steamy fantasies of Clark.
She shivered slightly as she looked around her. It felt strange to be waking up in this bedroom, the same one she and Richard had shared for years. And to be having these kinds of thoughts about Clark… a small body moved beside her, pressing closer. Gently, Lois stroked Jason’s back, and he settled to stillness again, reassured of her presence.
Jason hadn’t wanted to sleep by himself – he was still too anxious about almost losing his mommy two times in quick succession. And on top of that, he had demonstrated his burgeoning superpowers both times, the super-strength on the boat, super-speed at The Planet. Richard was downstairs on the couch, gracefully bowing out of sharing the bed with them: “We can’t all fit on this bed the way we used to, Sport.” He’d ruffled Jason’s hair tenderly, not completely able to hide the deep sadness in his eyes.
And where was Clark in all of this? Well, he’s not here, and that’s the only place I want him to be right now… Though not at the same time as his son… she chuckled uncomfortably, and turned over. Her little bundle of heat shifted in concert with her.
It was no wonder Lois couldn’t sleep well. ‘The Talk’ she had been dreading was on the horizon. I can’t put it off any longer… Jason needs to know that Richard and I are splitting up. He deserves to know before he can be hurt any more than he already will be.
And then of course, the ‘real father’ issue had to come out, too. But when? Tomorrow – she corrected herself, looking again at the clock – today…? In the next few days? Weeks? Months? How long can we reasonably put that off? Should we even try?
Lois could see so many possible outcomes to Jason learning the truth. If he found out now, would he really understand what it meant? Jason was a smart little boy, but he was still so young. But if they waited until he was much older, would he feel betrayed?
Telling him now, after everything that had happened, he might say, ‘Cool! That explains a lot!’ But she could also see the flipside, a red-faced Jason shouting at Clark, “I hate your guts, I’ll never be good enough for you!”
Truthfully, Lois knew it could be anything in that spectrum… and probably would turn out to be something in-between. But as well as she knew her little boy, she just couldn’t be completely sure of what he would do… or say...
- - - - -
“Can we stay here tonight instead of with Mister Clark?”
At Jason’s innocently-asked question, Perry White’s mouth opened in shock. “What the h—Clark?”
Lois’ first impulse was to fly into excuse mode. “Oh, Clark babysat Jason last night… and I came over later to work on the Mitchener story… after what happened with…” She let her words trail off – they sounded hollow even to her own ears. And the uncomfortable assessing looks Richard and Clark were giving each other… Lois realized that there was no hiding it from Perry.
But Jason… Lois placed a gentle hand on Jason’s shoulder and knelt to face him. “Sure, Munchkin. We’ll stay here tonight.” Jason didn’t know anything about the break-up, and this was not the time or place to do it. She would not explain what was going on to Perry in Jason’s hearing. “Why don’t you go in and put your pajamas on and I’ll be in soon.” Thankfully, all of the adults seemed to understand her hesitation. “Hey, Jason, want me to help you find something?” Jimmy volunteered, and his natural enthusiasm broke the tension just enough. “You can show me that new game you got.”
“Okay,” Jason answered after Lois gave him an affirming I’m-just-fine-kiddo kind of nod. Their voices quickly faded as the two went up the stairs onto the deck and into the house.
When Jason was out of earshot, Perry cleared his throat and lowered his voice. “Now, don’t give me any bull, you three. I didn’t become editor-in-chief of The Daily Planet because I couldn’t see what was in front of my face.” His eyebrows drew down as he pointedly looked between Lois and Richard. “Is what I’m seeing true? Did…” He shook his head disbelievingly before continuing, “…Kent come between the two of you?”
“Well, I wouldn’t say that I—” Clark began timidly, just as Lois was also arguing, “Chief, it’s not that easy to---”
Richard held up a hand. “Wait, Uncle Perry. Don’t jump to any conclusions… yet.” Both Lois and Clark halted mid-sentence. Richard continued, voice remarkably emotion-free, “It seems that Lois and Clark had a relationship back before he…” Richard’s eyes dropped for a moment before settling back on Perry’s face. “…left… on his trip. When Clark came back they both realized they still had… feelings for each other.”
Lois was completely surprised, Clark seemed just as astonished. Richard is explaining this… defending us? Why?
Perry dug into the information like the newshound he was. “What? A relationship? When?”
Lois started off gently. “Do you remember the honeymoon story you sent us on? To Niagara Falls?”
“Yes, to investigate the racket up there.” Perry turned to Richard, curiosity flashing across his no-nonsense face, “The same time you were asking me about?”
Richard nodded, still keeping his features schooled.
Clark tried to jump in, although he was clearly trying not to raise his boss’ ire, “It—it was a very romantic setting…” His tone abruptly changed, although only Lois knew why. “And then those aliens came and caused all that panic.”
“Right…” Perry ran a hand across his face. “But I still don’t get it! After all of that was over, you two acted like nothing had changed, and then only a few weeks later Kent gave his notice!” He began to pace, shooting Richard incredulous looks as he spoke. “A little fling like that, over so quickly, and then you’re… throwing away five years of your life…” While Perry continued to lecture Lois, he sent another look to Richard, urging him to speak up, “…and the father of your child, who just risked his life to save you… to recapture it?”
Lois didn’t know how to respond to that… just as with Richard, there was no way to explain what had happened without also explaining her memory loss. Clark was obviously searching for something to say as well. And it went without saying that they had to keep the Superman angle out of the explanation.
“Lois,” Richard began seriously. And Perry visibly relaxed, seeming to think that Richard was finally going to fight for her. “You’re going to have to tell Perry about it in order for him to understand.”
“Tell him what?” Lois asked in a panic. Clark’s eyes widened behind his thick lenses.
“About…” Richard lowered his voice. “About your memory loss.”
“What??” Lois and Clark said in unison. Clark was looking back at her with a stunned expression. How did he…?
Richard calmly went on. “Lois, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. A lot of people suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.” Richard turned to Perry. “The Kryptonian criminals kidnapped her, used her against Superman. From the way you told me she behaved afterward, she must have blocked out the whole event in her mind, forgetting it ever happened. Isn’t that right, Lois?”
Lois was astounded. How did Richard come up with this theory – one so close to the truth? “Something like that…” she responded vaguely, mind still swimming. “It all came back just this last week, after Clark returned.”
“Great Caesar’s Ghost…” Perry let out a low whistle. “That would sure explain a lot of things about those weeks. But surely, you still have to consider what’s best for Jason…” Before anyone could respond, an odd expression came over his face, as if he were doing the math in his mind, and he looked at the house in puzzlement. “Is Jason…?”
Richard gazed at Lois, eyebrow raised. Lois looked back at him briefly before staring in the direction of the house, biting her lip slightly.
“Yes, he is.”
The three other people turned with surprise to Clark, who had suddenly spoken up. Though Perry didn’t know it, Clark was the only one who really could divulge this information willingly.
“But Mr. White,” Clark continued earnestly, “Jason doesn’t know yet. No one knows except the four of us on this dock.” He moved closer to Perry, letting some of his awkwardness fall away as he caught Perry’s gaze in his. “And we’d prefer to keep this whole thing in the family – not even Jimmy should know. It’s going to be hard enough on Jason without everyone staring at him and whispering.”
Lois stepped beside Clark, joining him in solidarity. She looked Perry straight in the eye with her best dragon-mama stare. “Can you keep it to yourself, Perry?”
At that moment, Jason, in his pajamas, came out onto the deck and called down to them. “Mommy! Daddy! Are you coming?”
Something like sympathetic understanding passed across his face, and then, to her utter relief, Perry gave her a firm nod.
- - - - -
A fluttering outside the window brought Lois to the present again. She carefully untangled herself from the sheets and stepped carefully over to the bedroom window. Lois grabbed a hold of the latches of the window and pushed it slowly open, trying not to make even the smallest sound. Jason had always been a pretty sound sleeper, but without her soothing presence beside him, he could wake up at any moment.
Lois looked out to either side, then upward and down, and out across the water. Is Clark out there? Does he have news about Luthor? Lois would have given anything to see him just then, even at a distance.
She decided to risk just a little bit of noise. “Clark…” she called in a whisper. “Clark, are you out there?”
But there was no response. Somehow, she knew he had probably heard her, wherever he was right now… and as much as she wanted to be near him again, it probably wasn’t possible.
Lois sighed. This is going to be one long night… again, she thought, before climbing back into bed.
- - - - -
The steam from her coffee cup rose in front of her face, blurring the cartoon Jason was watching on television. Her third or fourth cup – she was beginning to lose track. Richard quietly nursed a cup of his own on the far side of the couch. Jason was sitting on the floor in his jammies, probably too close to the TV, but it seemed a small worry in the face of what she had to do today.
“Lois,” Richard murmured.
Lois didn’t turn her head. She’d had enough of the unnerving quiet glances he’d been giving her since she and Jason had first come down for breakfast. “Yes?” she returned just as quietly.
“I think we’d better talk to him. And soon.” Richard kept his voice pitched low, and Jason didn’t turn around.
“We will,” she promised, but the queasy feeling in her stomach made the words come out more as a groan.
“When? After he starts wondering where I am? When he discovers yet another power? You might find it easier if you just wait until he can overhear—”
“That’s enough,” she snapped, turning fiery hazel eyes on him. “Don’t you think I’ve been agonizing over this all night? I can’t help it if I want him to have just a few more moments before I turn his world upside-down.”
Richard closed his mouth, and nodded, looking abashed.
He was right, of course. The credits of the show Jason had been watching began to roll across the screen, going into a commercial break. With great effort, Lois pushed down her stubborn streak and gently called, “Jason, honey. I need you to turn the TV off and come sit by me.”
He turned his head curiously in her direction, about to protest, but something in the way the adults were looking at him must have changed his mind. He punched the power button and came over to her, climbing nimbly into her lap. “What is it, Mommy?”
“Sweetheart,” Lois began, unsure but knowing there was no way to make this any easier, “I have something to tell you that’s very difficult.”
Jason’s face slowly moved from curiosity to worry, but he remained silent.
Please, God, let me not screw this up… she thought, and squeezed his hand. “Your daddy… Richard… and I… are going to—” She stopped, and tried a different tactic. “Sometimes two people who are together find out that they can’t…” No, that wasn’t quite right, either. “Richard and I have been having some problems, and we don’t…” She paused again. She had almost said, We don’t love each other anymore. But in Richard’s case, that probably wasn’t true. And she did love Richard, but not the way that she really should, not the way that she loved Clark. “Honey, it’s complicated.”
Jason was beginning to stiffen in her arms, obviously becoming very anxious at her halting explanation. Lois hugged him tightly for a moment, and shot a look over at Richard. For all that he had urged her into doing this, he was being awfully quiet. Unhelpfully so.
“Jason,” she tried again, pulling back. “Richard and I aren’t going to be getting married.”
“Not?” Jason looked down at Lois’ left hand and seemed to see for the first time that there was no ring. “But… what does…?”
“It means that we aren’t going to be living together anymore.” Jason looked fearfully at Richard, who nodded with a pained frown.
“But… Mommy… Daddy… why?” His lower lip began to tremble slightly. “Is it because of…?” He sniffed and blinked away the tears that were springing to his eyes.
Lois gathered him tightly in her arms again. “It’s not because of anything that you’ve done, sweetie. We both love you very, very much.”
Jason pushed away a little to swipe at the tears with one hand. “But you don’t love each other anymore?”
Richard finally spoke up. “We do, but… sometimes that’s not enough.”
Jason’s voice trembled as he asked, “Will you still be my daddy?”
Lois and Richard exchanged a look. “I’ll always be your daddy, Jason. I love you, and I’m not going to be out of your life.”
“How…? How can you be my daddy if we don’t live together?” he said, voice full of heartbreaking confusion. “Am I going to have a new daddy?”
Lois suddenly felt her tongue stick like glue to the top of her mouth. Richard looked down again, unwilling to answer the question. It was her question to answer, after all. “Well… again, it’s complicated…”
Jason slid out of her lap, a frown coming over his face. Then he turned and slowly walked toward the stairs.
“Jason?” Lois stretched a hand out toward him. Her little boy looked back at her, then Richard, eyes almost blank, as he seemed to try to comprehend what was going on. Then without answering, he turned and walked up the stairs. A few moments later, they both heard the door to his room click shut.