Ch. 17: A Regular Person
The scrape of a fork. Slurping through a straw. Polite coughing. A request to pass the salad, please. These were some of the only sounds to break the silence at the table that night.
Jason looked from his mommy to his daddy in confusion. He obviously sensed something was wrong, but Lois couldn’t really tell him what that was.
“Honey, would you like any more chicken?” she asked her son, trying to behave normally.
Jason shook his head, mouth still full of food. His puzzled expression stayed on his face.
Normally, their dinner atmosphere was light and jovial – Richard or Lois would ask Jason to tell them something about his day. Richard might make a joke or ask Lois’ opinion on some world situation. Lois would answer animatedly, debating whatever point Richard brought up, Jason interjecting with a comment here or there.
But not tonight. You could cut the tension with a steak knife, no pun intended. Neither one of the adults felt they could talk about the issue they’d discussed earlier – not in Jason’s hearing. The funny thing was, although they were keeping silent with respect to Jason, the little boy noticed it, nonetheless.
Suddenly, her son drew a happy breath, as if he’d stumbled on a topic of conversation. “Mommy,” he began excitedly. “Did you see Superman today?”
Lois nearly choked on the sip of water she’d been taking. Richard stopped chewing in mid-bite. A look passed between his parents. Richard held her eyes for a moment before dropping them to his food resignedly.
Damn it, I’m not going to punish Jason for a situation out of his control. “Yes, sweetie. I saw him today,” she told him unapologetically.
“Cool,” he responded, all thought of the tension in his household seemingly washed away by his pure wonderment. “Was he flying? Did he save someone?”
She stifled a chuckle. “Both, I’d say.” She darted a glance at Richard, who was studiously avoiding looking at them, and continued, “It was me he saved.”
Jason’s eyes went wide. “Really? What happened?”
“Well, Mommy and Mister Clark were investigating a story, and we got ourselves into a little trouble. Superman flew us away before anything could happen.” Wow. Only the second time today she had to cover for Clark’s identity and already she was an old pro.
Jason tilted his head in confusion, exactly duplicating his reaction to learning about Clark's illness at the house last night. “But…?”
“But what, honey?”
“But…” Even Richard had now turned his attention fully back on the conversation. “He flew you and Mister Clark?” Jason asked, more puzzled than before.
Her heart fluttered a little as she tried to cover. “He’s a strong man, Jason. He can easily carry two people.” Not a lie, but it pained her to keep the truth hidden from Clark’s son as she said it. “He stopped a jet plane with his bare hands, right?”
His brows furrowed. “I guess…” Jason looked as if he wanted to say more, but didn’t.
She breathed a mental sigh of relief. Lois didn’t want to read anything into that conversation, but… did her little boy suspect something about Superman? Her mind had been swirling with ways to approach the talk with him this evening. Was this it?
The table fell silent again, and she watched him finish the last of his meal. He had been surprisingly silent on the whole subject of throwing the piano. Was he holding it in, afraid to talk? Was it possible that he didn’t even realize what had happened? It worried her that he hadn’t mentioned it even once.
When he was a little younger, he had loved to tell and retell exciting events when they were settling him to sleep. Just after he had turned three years old, he had repeatedly asked to hear the story of his birthday party. Lois and Richard had taken him to an oceanside park, just the three of them. He didn’t really have many neighborhood friends, what with his parents being so busy all the time, and it was just easier. They’d had sandwiches and a little bakery cake decorated like an airplane. And they’d watched people fly kites in the sea breeze, Jason laughing at the way they dipped, twisted and soared. He’d always liked things that flew…
He loved to hear about the kites and the cake, the seagulls that tried to grab their leftovers… she had told the story so many times as he drifted off to sleep. If he could talk so much about a simple afternoon in the park, but not a word about the terrible ordeal they had just been through…
Jason pushed his plate away from him. “I’m finished, Mommy. Can I go and play games in my room a little while before bedtime?”
“Sure. I’ll be up soon.” He nodded; he knew it was his mommy’s turn to put him to bed.
Richard held out his arms to Jason. “Can I get a goodnight hug before you go?”
Jason smiled, and ran easily into his arms. Lois watched them embrace with a pang of guilt in her heart. They loved each other so much, and now everything was so complicated…
Richard kissed the top of his head, and then held Jason out from him. “I love you so much, you know that?”
Jason smiled broadly. “I know, Daddy. I love you, too.”
“Go on upstairs, then, Sport.” Richard gave him a little pat on the back to send him on his way. They both watched Jason hurry up the stairs, eager to get in a little game time before bed.
Before Richard had fully turned back to her, she was already picking up Jason’s dishes from the table and taking them to the sink. Lois turned on the tap, and began to rinse the dishes one by one.
“Lois,” Richard said, his voice muffled below the sound of running water.
“Um hmm?” There was a bit of food stuck on the plate. She grabbed the scrubber and started working at it.
“For what?” She scoured a little harder, really putting her arm into it.
“For keeping Jason out of this whole mess….” He hesitated, and Lois, finally finished with the plate, picked up the glass. He lowered his voice. “What are you going to tell him?”
She didn’t answer immediately. To tell the truth, she was not completely sure herself. She felt Richard come behind her and lay a gentle hand on her arm.
She turned off the tap, set the dishes down on the counter, and turned to face him. “I don’t know what I’m going to tell him, actually. I just know I need to talk to him. You see… I’m afraid he might be wondering something himself.”
Richard’s hand dropped away from her in shock. “That…” His voice dropped even farther, to a whisper. “… Superman is his father?”
Lois shook her head. “Not exactly. He’s been showing… signs… of his parentage.”
Richard’s worry was tangible in his eyes. “What kind of signs?”
“Strength… and enhanced vision.” If it was possible for him to look even more shocked, he did. She rushed to explain. “It only happened a week ago, for the first time, and I was as shocked as you are. He pushed a grand piano into one of Luthor’s goons to save my life, and I think he might have used some sort of ‘super-vision’ to see Superman under the water.” She didn’t want to go into much detail, especially after having this exact conversation with Clark only a few hours ago.
Richard staggered back a step, hand to his forehead. He sat down on a chair shakily. “Oh, my God.” He looked up at her, apprehension etched on his face. “He must have been so scared!”
Lois sat beside him, concerned. “I think that’s why it happened. The terror of the situation brought these abilities to the surface… I haven’t even talked to Jason about it myself. In fact, I was about to go upstairs and do that very thing.” Richard suddenly managed to look even more worried. She assured him, “Don’t worry. I want to talk to him about what happened, and try to help him deal with it a little. Not what it means – that Superman is his father. He’s only five years old… I don’t think he’s quite old enough to understand.”
Richard let out a relieved breath. “I think you’re right. He shouldn’t have to carry that kind of thing yet. Not until the three of us figure out what to do, anyway.”
Or the four of us, she thought somewhat amused. Me, Richard, Superman… and Clark. What is that? Not a triangle… a diamond, a rhombus, a trapezoid? It was certainly more convoluted than a square.
“Well…” She stood, giving Richard’s knee a light squeeze. “I think I’ll go put him to bed now… and talk with him.” She walked toward the stairs, but then stopped and told him reassuringly, “I’ll let you know how it goes, okay?”
“Okay.” He stood, and started to remove the rest of the dinner dishes from the table. But the slump of his shoulders told her that he was anything but okay with it. He was probably jealous, and knew that with these abilities popping up in Jason, Superman’s presence in their lives was probably inevitable. Richard loved Jason too much – he would never want his son to hurt himself.
As she walked slowly up the stairs, she could hear Jason’s voice, as he role-played some sort of game with his toys on the carpet. She knew he would stop playing as soon as she stepped into the room, so she paused, peering through the slight crack in the door.
“Take that, you villain!” Jason lifted up an action figure, and made an unrecognizable sound effect. She tilted her head a little to the side and was able to make out the unmistakable red-and-blue form of Spider-Man. “Gotcha! My web will hold you until the police come!”
He held the other action figure, some sort of cowboy by the looks of it, upside down. “Mmph! Mmph!” he mimicked, as if his mouth was covered over with webbing.
The superhero figure added, “That’ll teach you to mess with Spider-Man! If you do it again, I’m going to get my friend Superman to teach you a lesson!”
She couldn’t suppress a giggle. Jason turned his head toward the doorway. “Mommy? Is it time for bed now?”
Caught, Lois opened the door all the way and came to sit beside him on the rug. “Yes, in a few minutes we’ll get you into your pajamas and into bed. Don’t stop playing on my account.”
“It’s okay. Spider-Man stopped the bad guy.” He placed the toy on the floor and then looked up at her, a strange expression on his face. “Mommy?”
“You know how Spider-Man wears a mask? How underneath he really just looks like a regular person?”
Lois swallowed. She didn’t like where this was going. “Uh huh?”
“Well, do you think Superman’s like that? That when he’s not in his costume, he just has a regular job like you or Daddy?”
Her heart stopped for just a moment. But she couldn’t ask for a better opening to this conversation they needed to have. “I think he might. After all, he probably can’t go around all day dressed like that.”
“I didn’t think so either.” Thankfully, he seemed to stop there, holding his toys in his hand. What she wouldn’t give to know what was going through his mind right now!
She swallowed. It was still going to be hard to breach this topic. “Jason… do you remember the ship? That man that wanted to hurt me?”
He didn’t meet her eyes, turning the cowboy between his fingers. “Um hmm.”
“What do you think happened… with the piano?” she asked quietly.
“I… I pushed it.” He finally turned his face toward hers, and she could see tears forming. “Did I do something wrong, Mommy? That man seemed so nice when he was playing the piano with me, but then he was going to hit you…”
She gathered him into her arms as he began to sob. “No, no, baby. You did the right thing. He scared you, and you were trying to protect me,” she soothed, rocking him gently back and forth the way she had when he was a toddler with a scraped knee.
They stayed this way for several minutes, until his tears slowed. Between sniffles, he asked her, “How did I do it, Mommy? At school today, I tried to push one of the picnic tables, and it just stayed there.”
“I think you were so afraid that the man would hurt me, that it made you extra strong…” Like a super-powered adrenaline rush, she thought, but she searched for words a five year old would understand. “Sometimes, when people are in danger, they find that they have incredible strength, or can run faster than they ever could before.”
“Has it ever happened to you? Or Daddy?”
“No, it hasn’t…” she trailed off. She wanted to tell him that even though what she just explained was true, it didn’t happen to everyone, and certainly not to the degree Jason had experienced. “But Jason,” she tried, pulling back to look into his tear-stained face. “I’m not going to lie to you… what you did was amazing. Somewhere inside you there is hidden power. Even though what happened may seem bad or scary… I’m so proud of you. You saved Mommy’s life.”
Jason gave her a tearful smile, and then looked down at the figure of Spider-Man still in his hand. “I’m always sick…” Jason placed the superhero figure down on the carpet. “In that Spider-Man movie, Peter was sick for a while, and then when he woke up, he had all these powers. Is that going to happen to me?”
“I don’t know, honey. I really don’t know.”
“I am scared…”
“It’s okay, Jason,” she said, pulling him into a tighter embrace. “You’re still you. We love you, no matter what.”
“Is everything going to be okay?”
“I hope so. I don’t really understand it all myself. But we’ll figure it out together, okay?” She took a deep breath and released her hold. “Do you know who could help you learn more about it?”
“Who?” His eyes were still shining with fearful tears.
“Superman. He’s a good listener, I know that for a fact. And he’s used to strange situations. Would you like it if he came to talk with you? Helped you with it?”
Jason’s mouth dropped open, and then he recovered. “Yes!”
She wiped the tears from his cheeks. “Then I’ll ask him. I know he’d love to help.” She kissed the top of his head, and then smoothed back his hair. “And now, kiddo, I think it’s time for bed.”
He didn’t complain at all as she helped him into his pajamas, he must have been so tired from their emotional conversation. Snuggling into his covers with a yawn, Jason looked for some final reassurance. “Will Superman really come talk to me, Mommy?”
“Yes, I promise you, Jason. He cares about you very much.” Lois gave him a final kiss.
Jason shifted his body until he was curled up facing the window. The way he stared out hopefully suddenly worried her, and she looked out of the glass. Did Clark ignore my request…? she thought, irritated. But there was nothing at all there, just the moon hiding behind the clouds. Jason’s eyes drifted closed.
She stood, careful not to wake him, and was surprised to see Richard leaning against the doorjamb. How long he had been there listening, she didn’t know. But by the anxious look in his eyes, she knew that the man who had been father to her son and loving companion to herself was afraid… of being replaced.
Next: Chapter 18: Questions