Chapter 14: Answers
The white crystalline surface of the Arctic snow passed quickly beneath them as they flew together, the wind whipping through Lois’ long hair. With her memories back, she hardly felt any hint of déjà vu this time. Their previous flight here was now forever seared into her memory.
In fact, every one of their romantic flights together had been incredibly special. Nevermind that she had been angry with him the last few times – there was something about being held in his warm arms that defied logic. She couldn’t help but feel a sense of awe.
She turned to look at Superman askance, remembering their first flight together. ‘Can you read my mind?’ she had thought at him, filled with wonder at a man so powerful yet gentle in demeanor. She smiled ruefully. It was a good thing that mind-reading was a power he didn’t possess! Some of her thoughts lately would have pierced his heart like laser beams from her eyes.
She could now see the Fortress of Solitude looming in the distance. Although his face was as impassive as it usually was when he was in uniform, she wondered what turmoil might be lurking in that Kryptonian heart.
They entered through an opening created by the juxtaposition of two massive crystals. He set her gently down, and moved a step or two back to give her space.
“It’s so dark,” she commented. She chafed her upper arms for warmth. “And colder than I remember.” The place had been so bright and warm before, even though it had grown impossibly out of the frozen tundra around it.
“Luthor,” he answered her gravely. “In his greed, he took all of the crystals. I have no way to control the temperature or light anymore.”
She opened her mouth in a silent ‘ah,’ and hugged her jacket more tightly around herself. “Maybe we should…”
“If you’ll let me…” he interrupted. He turned his gaze on her feet and as his eyes traveled slowly upward, a sensation like a warm hand passing over her body crept through her. A ripple of unexpected arousal rose up inside her at his virtual touch. When he had finished, she felt perfectly comfortable – temperature-wise, anyway. “I can’t do much about the light, but…”
“No, there’s enough sunlight coming in. We’ll be fine.” She let out a short nervous laugh. “We can’t stay all day anyway. Perry’ll have our hides if we don’t check in before the end of the day."
She had given their editor-in-chief a quick call before they headed north, since there was certainly no cell phone reception in the middle of this frozen nowhere. They were both going to have to figure out some interesting tale to explain why they’d been on assignment all day with nothing to show for it.
And as for Richard, well, he wouldn’t be expecting to see her again until this evening, if at all. It was his night to pick up Jason, though… and he was too responsible to leave the little boy alone at the house… She pushed thoughts of their inevitable awkward evening to the back of her mind. She would deal with it later.
But now…? Now she had another awkward conversation to attend to. She moved to take a seat at the table they had long ago used to share a romantic dinner. She patted the seat back of the chair to her left. As he came around the table, he spread back his cape to take a seat. She held up a hand suddenly. “Wait.”
He paused. “Yes, Lois?”
She felt a little embarrassed as she asked. “Did you bring along your… ‘Clark clothes’?”
“No… but I have a spare set here somewhere. Do you want me to change?”
“Please,” she answered, relieved. She didn’t know why, but she thought it might be easier to have this talk while he was dressed in normal clothing. After all, she’d practically lost it on the rooftop earlier, and she didn’t want to chance a repeat of that drama. This was going to be hard enough.
He was only gone a minute or two, but during that time, her eyes roamed the room, recollecting the day they’d spent here. The crystal console, empty now, and the large holographic projectors were as imposing as ever. She could still remember his mother’s voice, urging him to reconsider the step he was about to take. If he had only listened to her! she thought fervently. But she realized that she was lying to herself. If he hadn’t tried to become mortal, if they hadn’t… been together… there would be no Jason. No pair of brilliant blue eyes, no unfettered smile, so very like his father’s.
Her eyes slid further around and she caught a glimpse of silver. She turned her head away quickly, but then forced herself to think about it. Come on, Lane. You are here for the truth, no matter how uncomfortable it is. Face up to what happened, or you’ll never be free of the pain! A jumble of memories assaulted her senses as she focused on the bed. She could bring none of it into sharp focus, only a touch here, and a look there. What she remembered clearly was how it felt. Like heaven and earth, or really, Krypton and Earth, had shifted on their axes to allow their union. And through all of it, the overwhelming feeling that this was meant to be.
A touch on her arm brought her back. She looked up into his eyes – he had registered where her gaze had been resting. Such a strange mix of emotions on his face! Love, regret, passion, sadness, worry… and somehow, when he was in regular clothing, they showed much more strongly.
She was surprised to see him in a t-shirt and jeans, overlaid with a button-down flannel shirt. He looked so different in the casual attire, almost like another person entirely. He had a second flannel shirt in his hands, and he silently handed it to her. She took it gratefully, and drew it across her arms. She was still feeling quite comfortable from the ‘super-heating,’ but it couldn’t hurt.
But there was one thing not quite right… she reached out and plucked the glasses he must have put on for her benefit from his face.
He raised an eyebrow. She shrugged. “So,” she began.
“Here we are,” she encouraged.
It didn’t seem as if either one of them were really in the mood to go first. But enough was enough. “Look, Clark. You’ve probably figured out from my comments, and suggestion to come here, that I remember everything now.”
He nodded, eyes down. “The kiss?”
She reached a hand out to cover his. She was mildly surprised that she wasn’t more angry, but somehow, in this place where they had shared so much… “Why, Clark? I loved you…”
He looked back up. “I… loved you, too. But after all that mess with General Zod – seeing you so broken-hearted – I knew that I had done the wrong thing in giving up my powers. My father sent me here to help people, not to…”
A flash of anger rose up again. “To what? Be happy? Surely your father didn’t mean for you to stay alone and unloved your entire life?”
“Maybe he did!” he argued. He held her hands tighter, and leaned in to her, willing her to see. “I wasn’t supposed to ‘interfere with the course of human history’!”
Too late for that… she thought wickedly. But instead, she said, “But it happened, and there’s no going back. Would it have been so terrible to try to work things out?”
He removed his hands from hers and stood, back to her. In a voice so low she strained to hear. “How I wanted that, Lois. But… would you have wanted me?”
She could hardly speak; she was in such shock at his words. Not want him? It was the only thing I ever really… “Clark… of course I would have. Why would you ever think anything else?”
Still not turning to face her, he answered. “Would you want an empty bed most nights? A secret to carry that was so dangerous the merest slip could cause your death?” He finally turned to face her, running his hands through his hair in agitation. “All I could be is the man who was more married to the world than to his wife. Did you really want that?”
“Yes. I did.” When he looked disbelieving, she added, “Those tears I cried that day were real, but they weren’t forever. I was pretty selfish to think I could have you to myself. I know better now. But you know what?”
“What?” he asked, looking as if he were dreading the answer.
And she hated to throw it at him this way. But he couldn’t ignore it. “As much as I wanted you then, someone else needs you more now.”
“Jason.” He banged his fist into the crystal pillar beside him, sending fragments in all directions. “Another thing I messed up. All my years of soul-searching, trying to find my family roots, and I ended up leaving behind the only real family I have.”
Seeing him standing there, looking so alone, so fragile, she had to soothe him somehow. “You didn’t know. There’s still time to make it right. Jason needs his father.”
“There’s always Richard.”
“Richard loves him deeply, and even though he now knows Jason isn’t his, that won’t change in the slightest.” She stood and walked over to him. “But. He still needs you. And you need him, too. You should be in his life. And I don’t mean watching him while he sleeps, either.”
He searched her eyes, making sure she meant what she said. And there, in the middle of his castle of crystal, a seed she thought long dormant began to send tendrils around her heart.
He smiled, like the sun coming out from behind the clouds, and it seemed a weight lifted from his shoulders. “We’d better get back. What should we tell Perry?”
“Well, if we hurry, we might be able to salvage something from the notes I took yesterday.” She smirked. “If not, well, I’ve got years more experience spinning an excuse with him than you have.”
He laughed. It was a nice sound, she was happy to remember. “I’ll go change. Be right back.”
In the interim, she wandered back over to the console. Sure enough, as he had said, the slots that should contain crystals were empty. She traced their outlines lightly with a finger.
“Are you ready to go back?” Superman stood beside her, back in his iconic red and blues.
“Yes. Do you want this shirt back?” She held up a flannel-covered arm.
“No, keep it,” he suggested. “You’d have more use for it than me, anyway.”
He took her hand from the console, lightly touching it himself, and placed it around his neck. His unexpected, almost intimate contact jarred her senses briefly. “Hold tight.”
They rose smoothly into the air, slipping through the opening. But before they increased speed, she looked back. For the barest instant, just as they were leaving, had the console been… glowing?
Next: Chapter 15: Torn