Chapter 16: United
“The Deputy Mayor is very busy at the moment. The office is in overdrive organizing the city clean-up efforts… I can try to get you an appointment for next week…”
Next week? Oh, no, that wouldn’t do at all. “I’m sure he’ll want to see us,” Lois assured the woman in her least snarky tone. “The Daily Planet would like to feature him in an article about the reconstruction efforts.” She arched an eyebrow at Clark, telephone receiver trapped between her chin and shoulder. Her excuse to the secretarywas an almost-truth worthy of the best ones he’d used over the years.
Clark merely looked back at her, lips pressed together in sardonic amusement. He gave a short nod.
The secretary replied, “Just a moment. Let me check with Mr. Mitchener himself…”
Lois continued scribbling furiously on her notepad: Michner inv. in clean up. Story angel? She didn’t know why she was doing this, other than to help her train of thought. Clark could probably recite every detail of their investigation so far with perfect recall…
“The Deputy Mayor can see you at ten a.m. Will that be all right?” The woman’s voice had changed slightly. She seemed more interested in them, somehow, after speaking with her employer.
Lois rapidly agreed. “Ten o’clock will be fine, thank you.” She hung up the phone and jotted the time next to Mitchener’s name. “That was easier than advertised,” she reflected.
“She did sound much more eager to please after speaking to her boss. I wonder why?” Clark added.
Shrugging, Lois began to type the deputy mayor’s name into the search engine on her screen. “Who knows? Maybe he’s a publicity hound. You know the type. A dozen articles a week wouldn’t be enough for him.”
“I certainly do,” he responded, a touch of irony in his voice.
Lois froze, realizing how that probably sounded. “I didn’t—” she started to apologize, but the look in his blue eyes told her it wasn’t necessary. “Anyway, I’m going to see what I can find out about the guy online. Do you mind performing your ‘magic’ on the archives again?”
She had made her request of Clark so naturally, that she stopped short. Have I already accepted his gifts so easily? Her practical nature made it difficult not to simply make use of every available resource. So why did she feel so guilty?
But he was already walking toward the elevators. “Sure,” he said with a nod and wave, as if this sort of thing was an everyday matter for him. And maybe it was. He had to fit in twice as much work as a normal person in half the time to make up for his frequent absences. And what he does turn in is better than what most of the staff can do…
What would he be capable of if he devoted himself to only one pursuit? He could probably be a billionaire, or a dictator of a nation, depending… Thank God for all of us he cares so much… She suddenly felt sorry for her earlier fit of pique, thinking that he had been cheating with his abilities. Clark could do so much more, and simply chose not to.
She shook her head at her earlier arrogance and got back to work. Hmm. Mitchener wasn’t an uncommon name in Metropolis. It seemed that the family had been in the city practically since its founding. They were old money, had their fingers in pies all over the business sector. Manufacturing, shipping, finance… ah. Real estate.
But because the family’s business dealings were so diverse, there was really no clear focus. It looked like Philip Mitchener’s L & V might only be one of his many shareholdings.
Strangely, though, in looking at Mitchener’s history, it seemed as if these businesses were not connected to the family at all. After graduating with the finest ivy-league education money could buy, Philip Mitchener had invested his capital in various ventures. Technology companies, land acquisitions, and of course, construction and real estate. He could have easily taken a job running one of the family businesses, but he had preferred to strike out on his own.
Somewhere along the line he must have developed political aspirations. And so, with his family connections, money and drive to succeed, he had worked his way up to deputy mayor.
She tapped a pencil against her mouth. So, what did we have here? A man in his late thirties, who came from old money but preferred to succeed on his own, and successful in just about every arena he tried? Impressive. But impressive would only get him a feature on the front page of the business section. It wasn’t worthy of a Lois Lane exclusive.
She couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something else here… but her mind wasn’t revealing the answers right now. She rubbed her eyes tiredly. What a day! Lois felt as if she had been through the ringer.
In some ways, it would have been nice if there had been some sort of Luthor connection… it would have been comfortingly familiar in a day full of gut-wrenching revelations.
You must have had an awful day if you are pining for the bad-old-days, Lane. She sighed, and rested her hands on her chin.
Then Lois straightened up and her eyes flew open wide. Luthor! I’ve never told Clark! She looked at the clock. It was close enough to the end of the workday that she could take off, and early enough that she had time for a conversation with him before she would be missed at home.
As she stood to pack up her desk, Clark appeared in front of her, papers in hand, a worried look on his face. “Is something wrong, Lois?”
She bit her lip. They couldn’t talk here… “Can I give you a ride home?”
- - - - - - - -
Their footsteps echoed in the parking garage, as Lois and Clark made their way to her car. “Thanks for coming with me. I know you don’t actually need a ride…”
He didn’t take the bait. “Even if I did, my apartment is only a few blocks away. I usually just… walk to work.”
“Well, I need to ask you a question...” Lois unlocked and opened the driver’s side door. He opened his door, and they both silently slid in, Clark somehow knowing that she needed privacy to finish her statement. The doors shut with finality, and she started the car. Lois took a deep breath. “Have you been keeping tabs on Luthor?”
This was probably not the question he had been expecting, but he recovered quickly. His face turned grave again at the mention of Luthor. “Before I came back to work, I searched for him. I am sure he was not still on the continent he created when I sent it into space, but where he traveled afterward…” He had completely changed in demeanor – his powerful Superman persona burning through his ill-fitting three-piece suit, despite the glasses. “I searched the ocean for him… and all I found was an abandoned helicopter on a tiny island in the Atlantic.”
She started to pull out of her parking space. “And there was no sign of him?”
“None at all. The helicopter was out of fuel, but they obviously had not stayed there long. It was as if he disappeared.”
The earlier fear she had felt about Luthor suddenly doubled. “Disappeared?” she asked anxiously.
He nodded. “I stretched my senses to their utmost, searching desperately for the sound of his voice, his heartbeat… all in vain. I dare not hope that Luthor is dead.”
She gripped the steering wheel tightly as she turned on to the street. “He must be blocking you somehow, as difficult as that is to believe.”
“Yes,” Clark grimly agreed. His voice dropped further in pitch. “The man reveals more layers every time I come into contact with him. His depths of cunning…” He paused, and his eyes narrowed painfully. “Luthor’s out there somewhere, crystals in hand…”
They shuddered in unison.
Hearing this, she felt an even more urgent need to tell Clark about what had happened on the yacht. “Clark. We have an even greater problem now. Not only is he in possession of the crystals…” She swallowed. “He knows about Jason.”
“Yes, you were on the ship together, right?” he asked, completely missing the point. Then his sharp mind latched onto what she was implying. “Wait. You mean, he knows about Jason? His relationship to me?”
“But how? I didn’t even know until you told me in the hospital.”
“And I only suspected… Haven’t you wondered how I realized he was your son? Especially with my memories gone?”
He regarded her seriously for a long moment before answering her question. “Honestly? Every moment since you first told me.”
“Let me start from the beginning. You know about his health problems all these years. He was born prematurely, or at least I thought he was,” she added, shooting an annoyed glance his way, “and so I always thought he had a delicate constitution.”
Clark remained silent as she told the story, an unreadable expression on his face.
“Well, as Luthor kept us captive on the yacht, explaining his horrid plan for the crystals, he suddenly noticed something about Jason… I don’t know what, but Luthor’s expression was terrifying.” Her voice quivered slightly as she remembered that heart-stopping moment. “He asked me who Jason's father was and then waved a huge cylinder of kryptonite in our son’s face.”
Clark’s hand gripped the armrest a little tighter than necessary.
“Jason trembled in my arms. He never said a word, never took his eyes off the kryptonite. Somehow, his lack of physical reaction must have satisfied Luthor, and he left us alone with one of his goons.”
Lois turned another corner; they were almost to his apartment building. Clark was right – it would have been faster to walk. But this was the most convenient, and private place to talk to him.
“There was a grand piano in the room, and Jason decided to play it.” She smiled. “He’s just learned to play—”
“‘Heart and Soul,’” Clark interrupted quietly, the first words he’d spoken in minutes.
She frowned, how did he know? But she went on. “The henchman assigned to babysit us thought he’d scare me by sitting down to play the duet with him. I was scared all right, but I still had the presence of mind to send that fax with the coordinates to the Planet.”
They were almost to the front entrance now, but they weren’t finished. She pulled the car halfway down the block to one of the metered parking spaces, and shut off the engine. She didn’t want the doorman to wonder about the woman having an earnest conversation with one of the tenants. She knew all too well how knowledgeable doormen could be about the goings on in their buildings.
“Anyway, there was another electromagnetic pulse after Luthor launched his crystals into the depths of the ocean. It shut down everything, including the fax, and that’s why you never received the whole message. By that time, Luthor’s man was onto me, and I was not able to escape, until…”
She took another deep breath. She could almost not believe what had happened next herself. “Until the grand piano slammed into him, crushing him beneath its weight.”
Crack. In his surprise Clark had ripped the armrest out of its socket. He held it helplessly between his hands. “Jason… threw it at him?” he asked, voice infused with astonishment.
“Or pushed. He was as shocked as you are right now.” She turned to him and continued in a choked voice. “Two of the other men came from above deck and saw what had just happened. They locked us in the pantry after that, where you found us later. But I have no doubt they told Luthor about it.”
Clark’s lips set in a grim line. “No doubt.”
“And that’s not all. Jason was the one who spotted you from high above in the seaplane as you sank beneath the waves. I don’t know what else he can do, Clark,” she finished, beginning to tremble again. “He’s so little… to have seen so much…”
Clark placed his large, warm hand on hers. She almost jolted at the unexpected contact, but she stopped herself from pulling away.
Lois looked down at their clasped hands, unable to meet his gaze. “This is what I meant when I said that Jason needs you, Clark. He needs someone to show him how to control these developing powers, someone to talk to about them. And only his father can do that.”
She raised her head then, and the warmth radiating from his eyes was tangible. “I will help him, Lois,” he said, voice full of gratitude. “And I promise, I will not rest until our son is safe from Luthor’s machinations.” He squeezed her hand tightly. “Thank you for telling me this. Thank you for letting me into his life.”
“You’re welcome.” Following a deep, sudden impulse, Lois tugged on his wrist to bring him into a heartfelt hug. She sensed that he needed solace as much as she did. His strong arms wrapped around her body, a heady sensation that frightened as well as comforted her. As they clung to each other, she somehow felt closer to him than ever. They had such history together, both as work partners and lovers, as well as a son they both loved dearly. And now they were united in determination to protect their little boy, whatever the cost.
A tiny voice reminded her that she needed to get home. She pulled away from him. “Clark?”
“I need to get home now, but… do you mind not visiting tonight? I want to talk to Jason about all of this, and after everything Richard learned today…”
He looked disappointed, but resigned. “I understand.” He tried to replace the armrest, but she shook her head gently. Clark opened the car door, and stepped out. Leaning in, he bade her goodbye. “See you tomorrow.”
“Yes, tomorrow. Bye, Clark.”
The door closed after her, and she pulled away from the curb. She kept her eye on the rearview mirror, where he stood watching her go, until she finally turned the corner.Next: Chapter 17: A Regular Person