Title: Then And Now
Summary: Clark Kent returns to the Daily Planet, after a five-year absence, and discovers that his true love, Lois Lane, has a son. The question – is the boy his? My own take on Clark’s feelings, pre–Superman Returns.
Author's Note: Although the story begins with a flashback from Superman II, most of this is my own supposition of how Clark feels when he returns to the woman he loves. This was written and published before the movie premiered (mid-June 2006), based on the novelization, and as such, any differences between this and the movie version are completely my own. Thanks to mark_clark for looking this over.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -Then and Now
Chapter 1: The Sacrifice
“Your father and I tried to anticipate your every question, Kal-El. This is the one we hoped you would not ask.” His mother Lara’s voice, crystalline ripples distorting the words ever so slightly, was tinged with disappointment.
Superman stood before the crystal structure in the heart of the Fortress of Solitude and tried to explain. “But I have to. Because… she’s everything I want in life.”
The face in the hologram paused. “And she… the one you have chosen… she feels as much for you?”
He was absolutely certain. Nodding slightly, he simply replied, “Yes.”
“Then if this is what you wish… if you intend to live your life with a mortal…” Her eyes pierced through him, willing him to understand just what he would have to do. “…then you must live as a mortal. You must become one of them.”
One of them? What does she mean? She directed his attention to a large empty crystal, sliding up into place several feet away. “This crystal chamber… has harnessed the rays of the red sun of Krypton. Once exposed to these rays, all your great powers on Earth will disappear forever.”
As he contemplated all that he would be giving up, he could feel the eyes of his beloved, Lois Lane, standing at the entrance of the room. Although she thought she was witnessing a private moment between mother and son, he was fully aware of her quiet presence.
The love of his life was mesmerized by the scene playing out before her. He knew that more than once Lois had tried to break the silence, but something inside her had stopped her from saying anything. She wanted him to do this. Maybe she had fallen in love with the superhero, but she really wanted the man.
He turned to enter the chamber. “But consider…” his mother warned, stopping him. “Once it is done, there is no return. You will become an ordinary man. You will feel like an ordinary man. You can be hurt like an ordinary man.”
She paused to let those words take effect. He was unsure what to say. This was what he wanted… but…
Impossibly, the figure of his mother stepped out of the crystal, and took a few steps toward him. “Oh, my son… Are you sure?” She reached a ghostly hand toward him, pleading with him to reconsider.
He smiled slightly in response. “Mother…” Joy suffused him as he thought of the only woman worth this sacrifice. “I love her.”
Lara silently regarded him as he slowly turned and made his way to the chamber. In fact, he could feel both women’s eyes on him – one hopeful, one resigned. He took a step in, full of determination. Immediately, and inexorably, the door to the chamber slid up into place and closed with a devastatingly final thunk. His mother lowered her head, and disappeared, just as red light enveloped the chamber.
As his body was bathed in the red rays of his homeworld’s sun, he involuntarily placed his hands against the glass to steady himself. The sensation was unlike anything he had ever experienced. Superman had always been invulnerable to just about everything except Kryptonite. This feeling, although it made him feel strangely weak, didn’t have the poisonous quality of the glowing green meteorite.
He felt as if he were separating into two men – the superhuman, and the human. The incredible Man of Steel and the average Clark Kent. His consciousness was being remade, shedding itself of his power. The odd sensation slowly wore off, until he could almost see two of himself, the other, the alien, slipping away.
With a powerful bang, the crystal control panel exploded in fire and smoke. There was truly no going back. His hands slid from the glass sides, and he emerged changed, an ordinary man, in ordinary clothing. Clark walked purposefully toward his extraordinary woman. For only she could know what he had given up, and love him for it.
When he reached Lois, he gently took both of her hands in his. She looked up at him, wonder in her eyes. “You did all that for me?” He stayed silent – she knew he had, she had witnessed the whole thing. “Hnh – I don’t know what to say…”
“Just say you love me,” he said, smiling shyly.
She let out a heavy breath, and quickly brought their clasped hands up to her lips. She kissed his hands tenderly, and then he wrapped her in a warm embrace. As they pulled apart, they looked deeply into each other’s eyes. One, then the other of them, glanced toward the silvery sheets on his bed.
The moment that both of them had dreamed of was finally here. Without a word, he placed an arm around her shoulders and led them into the bedroom.
Clark Kent silently rode the elevator to the newsroom of the Daily Planet. Although he had been gone for five years, Perry White had welcomed him back with open arms. “We could always use a great writer like you around here. Can you start Monday?”
Thankfully, Perry had asked few questions about where he had been. He had an entire backstory planned to tell them all, but for some reason, it all felt paper thin. His stomach was in knots. How would Lois react to seeing him again?
He had left the woman he loved behind all those years ago, her knowledge of his secret identity wiped away with one searing kiss. When she had recovered from the mind-wipe, she had simply sat down at her desk, and asked him to get her a hamburger. With everything.
She had no recollection of the night they had spent in each other’s arms, no inkling of the strong feelings he had for her. As Clark, as Superman. But the world had needed its hero back, and so he had found a way to regain his powers.
Only to leave it again soon after. The whole experience of losing and gaining his powers, all for selfish reasons, had caused him to reexamine his existence as Superman. Did the world need a hero like him? A hero who would throw everything away for one night of passion?
But now he was back, and the answers were no closer than they had been five years ago. He knew one thing for sure – he had to see Lois Lane again.
The doors opened on his floor with a ding, and he stepped back into the buzzing newsroom. He breathed in deeply, closing his eyes. This, more than anywhere except the farm, felt like home. Why had he ever left?
“Clark? Clark Kent?” a young-sounding voice called from across the room.
He turned to the voice with a warm smile on his face. “Jimmy Olsen!” They shook hands heartily.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes, but it is you! How’ve you been?” In his enthusiasm, Jimmy pumped his hand a few extra times.
“Ah… doing well, doing well,” he replied, slipping into his old Clark Kent mannerisms like a second skin.
Jimmy looked over his suit, the briefcase in his hand… “No way! Are you coming back to work here? That’s great!”
“Uh, thank you. I’m glad to be back.” He looked over to the Editor-in-Chief’s office. “I’d better go check in with Mr. White. Good to see you, Jimmy.”
“Yeah, we’ll catch up later. A lot has changed since you’ve been gone…” His voice faded away as Clark walked over to Perry White’s office. Along the way, he glanced at every desk, hoping to catch a glimpse of Lois’ nameplate. All too soon he was at the door. Perry was on the telephone to someone, pacing back and forth, and gesturing grandly.
Well, this is something that hasn’t changed, he thought with a grin. Perry had a lot more gray in his hair than he remembered, but his strong personality and iron will hadn’t dampened in the slightest. Clark softly opened the door, not wanting to disturb him.
“…you’d better have that story in, pronto!” Perry boomed into the telephone before hanging it up firmly. He looked toward the opening door, and the scowl on his face changed to a smile. “Welcome back, my boy!” Perry stepped up to grasp Clark’s hand. “You don’t look a day older than when you left!”
Clark bobbed his head sheepishly. “Thanks, Mr. White. It’s good to be back. Uh…” He tried to sound casual. “I ran into Jimmy on my way in, but…” He cleared his throat. “Where’s Lois?”
“Oh, Lois? She’s—”
“I know, don’t tell me, on assignment?” he joked. More than once during their partnership, Lois had jetted off to capture the latest story without letting anyone but Perry know.
Perry laughed, “No, not this time, actually. She called a few minutes ago. She and Richard are going to be a few minutes late.”
Before he could ask, Richard? Is that her new partner?, the phone rang again. “Excuse me, Kent.” He lifted the receiver. “Perry White. Yes, that’s right, go with that.” Noticing that Clark was still standing there, he placed his hand over the phone. “I’m sorry, Clark. This’ll be a while. I had a desk cleared out for you near the wall.” He waved distractedly in that direction, already back into his conversation.
Clark crept out of the office, feeling content about the constancy of some things in his absence. Time to find that desk.
As he meandered through the maze, he heard the ding-swoosh of the elevator opening. “No, Richard, I’m not an invalid. I can carry it just fine.” Her terse, no-nonsense voice cut through the noise of the newsroom. He halted, straightening up to get his first glimpse, heart leaping to his throat.
The word came out, barely above a whisper. “Lois…”
Next: Chapter 2: Vision