You will make my strength your own. You will see my life through your eyes, as your life will be seen through mine. The son becomes the father, and the father becomes the son.
Jason stirred. When he opened his eyes, the speaker was already gone. He hurried to the window and smiled at Superman's retreating form. "Good night!" he called. Superman turned back, smiling at him. He exchanged words with Jason's mother, smiled again at Jason and flew away.
Jason smiled. That will be me one day.
Jason couldn't help the feelings of confusion and guilt when he sat down to breakfast with his father the next morning. He loved his father. This was the man who tucked him in at night, read stories with him, helped him work puzzles, took him to the park. But...
"What's the matter, kiddo?"
Jason looked up. "Huh?"
"What's wrong?" Richard asked, scruffing his hair. "Why all the long looks?"
Jason tried to smile. "Nothing," he said.
"Something, I think. Rather not talk about it?" Jason shook his head. "Okay. But when you're ready, you can talk to me. You know you can talk to me about anything, right?"
Jason nodded. "Where's Mommy?" he asked.
"She's working today," Richard said. Jason thought he was trying not to sound sad. "But that's okay, right? It's you and me. Wanna go to the park today?"
"No. Can we go to the library instead?"
"Sure, we can go wherever you want."
Jason didn't have much trouble getting away from his father in the library. Richard always liked to look at the latest pilot and home improvement magazines, and he usually let Jason hang out in the kid's section on his own. Jason spent the next couple of hours reading as many short books as he could find on step-parents, blended families and adoption. None of them described his exact situation, but he found enough similarities in the various stories to make himself feel a little better about loving two dads.
Jason heard his father's footsteps long before he saw him. He shoved the books into a corner and browsed for a safer subject. The books certainly hadn't talked about any families where one daddy didn't know the child in question was not his own. Jason knew that Richard would be upset if he learned that Superman was his "real" father.
In a few minutes, Richard came into the children's section, holding a few magazines and a woodworking book. "Haven't picked anything?" he asked, surprised.
"I read what I wanted," Jason said.
"Well, I found something I think you're going to like," he said with a sly smile. He flipped to a page in the woodworking book and showed it to Jason.
Jason's eyes widened, and he smiled broadly. "Are you really going to make that?"
"Nope. We're going to make it. Come on, we've got some planning to do."
Lois laughed uproariously. She held her hand to her side and giggled until she could barely catch her breath. Richard drummed his fingers on the table and tried to maintain his glare. Her laughter was always infectious, even when it was directed at him. He took advantage of a pause in her merriment to clear his throat. "Are you quite through?"
"I'm sorry," she said with a chuckle. "But you can't be serious!"
"Of course I am! And what's so funny about it?"
Lois snickered. "Richard. Come on." She pointed at the glossy photograph of the elaborate, four-room tree house. "Just look at it! You've never built anything like this!"
"There's a first time for everything. Besides, I'm not going to make it that spectacular. We'll just make a few modifications to the design and-"
"Oh, Richard you couldn't modify a Powerpoint presentation without help," Lois snapped. "You need to be sensible about this."
Richard straightened, stung by the comment. He didn't have to work to mantain his angry expression now. "Well, Lois, I'm no Superman, but I never knew just how incompetent you really thought I was," he said.
"Dammit, Richard, don't make this about Superman! I told you, I'm over-"
"I'm not making this about Superman! I'm making it about what it is. You obviously think I couldn't tie my own damn shoelaces without a manual! I try to do something nice for our son, and all you can do is laugh at me and shoot the whole thing down before it even gets started!"
Lois' face was red, but Richard couldn't tell whether it was from embarrassment or anger. "I'm sorry," she said at last. "I shouldn't have... look if you want to build a tree house, I'm all for it. I'm sure it'll be perfect."
Richard sighed, thoroughly dissatisfied, but tried to be graceful. At least she'd apologized. She kissed him on the cheek and went back to clearing away dishes. Richard closed the book and left the kitchen. He was so disgusted he was ready to abandon the whole project. He stalked upstairs, but decided to check on Jason before heading to the bedroom to stew.
Richard tapped on the door of Jason's room, then poked his head in. Jason was sitting at his desk, putting the finishing touches on another of his drawings. "Can I come in?"
Jason nodded. "This is for you," he said, handing the drawing to Richard. Richard smiled warmly. Jason had drawn a large tree with a veritable mansion in its branches. Two faces peered out of the windows, labeled "Daddy" and "Me".
"It's perfect," Richard said.
Jason smiled. "I can't wait 'til we make the real one. Can we start tomorrow?"
"Absolutely," Richard said. "Come on, hop in," he said, patting Jason's bed. "We're going to start bright and early, right?"
"Right!" Richard tucked his son into bed, turned out the lights and softly left the room. He stayed up considerably longer than Jason, or even Lois. He was still upset enough with Lois not to want to join her in bed just yet, and he wanted to do more research on tree-house architecture. Jason's eagerness had brought back all of Richard's former enthusiasm, and he spent several hours figuring out how to turn the elaborate dream house into a reality.
Jason was already awake when Richard came to collect him. They discussed blueprints over breakfast and were on their way outside to look for the perfect tree by the time Lois came down. "What's with the luggage?" she asked, pointing at the large bag slung over Richard's shoulder.
"It's tools, Mommy," Jason informed her.
Lois grinned. "Ahh. Off to survey the land?"
Jason nodded, and Richard smiled. "Yup," he said. "See you in a little while."
Lois shook her head and headed toward the kitchen. Jason tugged lightly on Richard's sleeve. "C'mon, Daddy."
"Okay, let's see what we can see."
Jason followed Richard out to the yard, listening to him talk about structural concerns with tree-houses. Jason learned about necessary tree-width, wind resistance and post requirements. Richard handed Jason a tape measure from their kit, took one himself and instructed Jason to look for likely tree that was at least twelve inches thick. Jason surveyed the nearby trees, checking each one carefully with his tape measure. "What about this one, Daddy?" he called after measuring the third one.
Richard trotted over and inspected the tree. "How many inches is this?"
"Sixteen," Jason reported.
Richard "hmmmed", and Jason was pleased to see that his father trusted him enough not to double-check the width. Richard looked toward the house, and mumlbed soemthing about the tree being fairly close. He patted Jason on the shoulder. "Well, son, I think you've made the right choice. Lets take a look at the plans again."
Jason mulled over the blueprints with his father, nodding knowingly while Richard muttered about supports and positioning. He eyed the tree, and held the tape measure to it several different ways before giving Jason another smile. "What did I tell you? Perfect. You have a good eye, Jason."
Next was a trip to the hardware store for wood, bolts, paint and other supplies. Jason made the decision on the color of the tree house, while Richard handled just about everything else, explaining his reasoning to Jason as he went along. Once they got home, Richard put Jason in charge of organizing all the bolts and smaller tools while he and a helper from the store unloaded all the wood. Lois looked on for a few minutes with a half-smile on her face, then went back into the house, probably to work on another story.
The day went by more quickly than Jason expected. They had just enough time to set up the first set of supports before it was time to go in for the evening. Lois asked them how the architecture went during dinner, and Jason was glad to see that they weren't fighting about it anymore. He went to bed with a happy heart, and visions of tape measures, wooden planks and branches buzzing through his head.
Jason and Richard had built the floor of their tree house by the time Jason saw Superman again. Richard was out at a special dinner with Uncle Perry, and Lois had stayed behind to watch Jason and finish up the article she was working on. She finished a short bedtime story for Jason, then left the room. Just as he was about to fall asleep, Jason felt a breeze from his window. He opened his eyes when he heard the soft sound of footsteps approaching his bed.
Superman was standing near his bed, his bright blue eyes wide with shock. "I'm sorry," he whispered. "Did I wake you?" Jason shook his head and sat up. Superman looked hesitant, glancing back toward the window.
"Are you going away?" Jason asked, almost surprised by how much the thought upset him.
Superman looked a little guilty, then smiled down at him. "I was afraid I'd startled you," he said softly.
Jason shook his head. "I'm glad you came," he said, scooting over a little and patting his bed the way Richard did when he wanted Jason to sit down. "I wanted to talk to you."
Superman looked surprised, but sat on the bed beside Jason. "Okay," he said. "What would you like to talk about?"
"Is it hard for you having two fathers?" he asked.
Superman's jaw dropped. He stared at Jason for a few moments, before finally managing to speak.
"Wha... bu... do..." Superman cleared his throat. "How do you know I have two fathers?" he asked at last.
"Jimmy said your mommy and daddy lived in Kansas," Jason explained. "But you said you were born on Krypton, so you must have two daddies and two mommies."
Superman's jaw dropped a second time. "You... you know about Clark??" Jason nodded. "But... how did you..."
"I saw you on the news when you were talking to Mommy and Daddy and I could tell." Superman was silent for several moments, and he looked worried. "Don't worry," Jason said, guessing at why he looked upset. "I know it's a secret."
Superman smiled. "You're so smart, Jason," he said, and his voice swelled with pride. "I think I can guess, but do you mind if I ask why you want to know about having two fathers?"
"Because Daddy and you are both mine," he said. "I got confused because I love Daddy, but... you're my-" Jason stopped himself before he said the words "real father". It didn't seem right.
Superman nodded. "I understand, Jason. It was a little difficult for me at first, when I found out that the father I'd known all my life wasn't my biological father. I was confused. I felt guilty for wanting to know more about my Kryptonian father. For wanting to love him." He reached out and lightly brushed Jason's bangs away from his face. Jason saw a glimmer in Superman's eyes, almost as if he were about to cry. "But I got used to it," he said. "I learned to love my Kryptonian father very much, and I loved my Earth father as deeply as always."
Jason smiled and gave Superman a hug. He could feel Superman's sharp intake of breath, and a moment later, strong arms returned the embrace. He smiled up into his Kryptonian father's face. "Do you think you have time to tell me a story?"
"I always have time for you, Jason," he said. "What kind of story do you want?"
"Something about Krypton." Superman tucked Jason into bed, looked slowly around the room as if he was trying to see through the walls. When he finished, he looked down at Jason and started the story of the very first member of the House of El. Jason tried to stay awake through the whole story, but somewhere between the assasination attempt against Kor-El and his marriage to Rena from the House of Ilo, Superman's soothing baritone had lulled him to sleep.
Richard spent as much time as he could building the tree house with Jason. He delegated many of his more mundane tasks just so he could leave work early to make a little more progress with the project. Lois never made another skeptical statement about the tree house. She seemed to be making a special effort not to mention it negatively. She remarked more than once how nice it was to see Jason spending so much quality time with his father.
Three weeks after they'd chosen their tree, Richard and Jason were already half way through with the production. The first three walls had been built on the ground, then Richard rented a simple pulley device to heft the jointed walls into the tree.
Richard stood back to admire the rear and side walls. "Not bad, huh?" he said, looking down at Jason. His son smiled and shook his head. "Okay, kiddo. Time to get it into the tree now. Stand back over there, okay?" Jason stood a safe distance away while Richard fastened the ropes of the pulley onto the walls. He tugged on the rope to make sure it was secure, then turned on the machine. Gears cranked, and slowly, the walls began their progress up into the tree's branches. Richard watched it rise slowly, keeping his eye on the controls and adjusting them slightly when it seemed that the walls might hit a branch.
Richard stopped the machine when the wall sections had reached the proper height. "Okay, Jason. You ready to head up there and start bolting?"
"Yes," Jason said. Richard smiled, but Jason's eyes narrowed suddenly and he frowned.
"What's wrong, Jason?" A moment after he spoke, Richard heard a snap. He looked up, and his eyes widened. One of the clasps attaching the ropes to the woodwork had broken and the walls swung dangerously by one rope. Richard stepped back, but before he could get out of the way, the second clasp snapped, and the walls dropped down toward him.
A second after Richard heard his son's panicked cry, he was bowled over by an unknown force and propelled about six feet away from the tree. He tumbled to a halt, and looked up in time to see the house swiftly falling toward his son. "JASON!!" Richard's gut wrenched inside him and he stared, powerless to stop what was happening.
A moment later, however, he was stunned out of all sense of fear. The house stopped about three and a half feet from the ground. Richard stared. Jason had caught the back wall just before it hit his head, and slowly pushed it up. He held it there for a second, then carefully repositioned it so that he could safely set it down.
"Oh my God," Richard said in a breathless whisper. The implications of what had just happened hit him suddenly, and he stared at Jason with mingled wonder and sadness. He willed it not to come, but despite himself, the thought articulated itself in his mind. Jason is not my son.
Jason turned and stared at Richard, his lip trembling, and his large blue eyes filling with tears. "I'm sorry," he said.
Richard was on his feet in an instant. He reached Jason in two strides and scooped him up into his arms. "You don't have to apologize to me," he said, hugging Jason tightly. "You never have to apologize for who you are."
Jason's body trembled slightly, and Richard held him until he felt Jason grow still. He kissed Jason on the forehead and managed a smile. "Thanks for saving me," he said. Jason managed a small smile, too, but Richard could tell he was still upset. "Are you okay? Did you hurt yourself?"
Jason shook his head. "Are you mad at me? Because I didn't tell you?"
"No, Jason, no! It wasn't up to you to tell me that." He embraced Jason again. "Don't worry, Jason. I don't want you to worry about anything." He felt Jason nod. They stood there for a few more seconds, then Richard carried Jason into the house and up to his room. He needed a little time to himself, to figure out how to handle the person who was responsible for telling him Jason's true parentage.
"Can you hang out in your room for a while?" he asked. Jason nodded. "Call me if you need anything."
Richard left the room and immediately called Lois. He asked her to come home, telling her that he needed to talk to her right away. Something in his voice must have told her that this wasn't the best time to cry work. She told him she would come right away, and Richard paced back and forth across the living room floor waiting for her.
Every doubt he had ever had rushed back to him while he paced. His feelings of insecurity toward Superman increased tenfold. He loved Jason more than anything, and it was like having part of him forcibly ripped away to know that he belonged to Superman. It was much worse, though, to know that Lois hadn't told him the truth.
Richard stopped pacing when he heard Lois' car drive up. He tried to force the scowl off his face, but he had a hard time doing it. He was still glaring when Lois entered the room.
"Richard, what's wrong?" she asked, looking at him with mingled nervousness and confusion.
"When were you going to tell me about Jason?"
Lois looked completely confused, then her face flushed a deep red. "How... how did you-"
"Does that really matter?" he asked. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"Richard, I- I didn't want to hurt you."
"Didn't want to hurt me? Lois, how long did you think you could hide it from me? The longer you waited the worse- how could it not hurt me to know you've been lying to me all these years??"
"Years? Richard, I had no idea until we got stuck on Luthor's yacht! I never thought he belonged to Superman until then!"
"But you had to have suspected, Lois! He couldn't have been with you less than a month before you got together with me!" The thought angered him so much that Richard wasn't able to speak for a moment. Another thought occured to him. "When I asked you if you loved him you told me you didn't!"
Lois gaped. "You- you never asked me if I had sex with him, Richard, you asked if-"
"So you're telling me you screwed him, but you weren't in love with him?!"
Lois' anger flared. "Dammit, Richard, don't make this harder than it is! What do you want me to do? Huh? You want an apology? I'm sorry I didn't tell you something that was none of your business!"
"None of my business?? Lois how can it not be my-"
"I hadn't even met you, Richard! Am I supposed to tell you EVERYTHING that I ever did from the day I was born?? Why would I tell you I slept with Superman when just the fact that I knew him makes you insecure? Can you tell me that?"
"Because I'm raising his son? Is that enough of a reason for it to be my business?"
"You act like you regret raising him! Is that what you're saying, Richard? You wish you'd never raised Jason? Because if it is, that's really-"
"That's NOT what I'm saying! I love Jason, you know that! I'm just... it... it was recent enough that you could honestly think Jason was ours! That's not minor, Lois! How am I supposed to feel?"
"He couldn't have been gone for more than a couple of weeks before you and I-"
"Richard!" Richard let her speak. "Look. I was a lot younger, then, okay? I guess I was in love with him in a way, but not... it was more like infatuation than love and, I just happened to be lucky enough to..." Richard bristled, and Lois stopped, her face flushing a deeper red than before. "Richard. I love you, not Superman. And if over five years of living with you hasn't convinced you of that, I don't know what else you want me to do!"
"Why won't you marry me?" he asked.
She looked startled. "What?"
"Why won't you marry me?" asked again. "If you love me so much, why won't you marry me?"
"Richard, marriage has nothing to do with whether people love each other! How many times do we have to-"
"But why, Lois? WHY can't you do it? If you're over Superman - really over him - why won't you marry me? You can't even talk about it without getting upset!"
"Richard, you know how much I hate being pressured about this!"
"That's my point! Why is it pressuring you? You should want to-"
"Now you're telling me how I should feel?"
"No! No, Richard, that's it. I'm sick of this! You wanted the truth about Jason but you can't handle that! You can't handle the fact that I had a previous relationship with someone even though God knows how many women you were with before me, and you don't see me harping on you about them-"
"But I never lied to you about my relationships, either, Lois! And I didn't have a relationship THREE DAYS before I got together with you! You can't compare that to-"
"NO!" she shouted. "STOP IT. I won't talk about this with you anymore! I'm sick of your insecurities and your Superman issues, and-"
"This isn't a Superman issue, it's a trust issue! I feel like I can't trust you, Lois!"
Lois glared at him, her face growing practically pure white in her fury. "I'm ending this conversation," she said through gritted teeth.
Lois turned her back on him, and he took a step back as if she had slammed a door in his face. He glared at her. "You might be ending more than that," he snapped. He turned on his heel and stormed toward the door.
"Wait, what is that supposed to mean?" Richard was too furious to stop. "Richard! Richard!"
Richard slammed the door as hard a he could and headed for the car. He stopped short and looked back toward Jason's window. He was relieved to see that the curtain was drawn. He figured that Jason had been listening to his headphones during the louder parts of the argument. Thank God for that. He got into the car and drove off, no destination in mind except away.
"You might be ending more than that!" Jason gasped. He heard his father's footsteps, followed by his mother calling his name. The door slammed, and Jason's heart raced. It was hard to breathe again for the first time since the Boat Incident. He gasped for air, knowing he shouldn't panic, but unable to do anthing else. He heard another door slam and raced to the window in time to see his father's car peel away from the house.
Jason's eyes filled with tears and he stared after the car until it turned a corner and he could see it no more. There was a frustrated scream from downstairs, and Jason heard a few things slam around before it was quiet again. A few moments later, he could hear his mother crying. The sound frightened him more than anything else. He had never heard it before.
Jason turned away from the window and walked slowly down the stairs. He followed the foreign sound until he found his mother, curled up on the couch gripping one of the cushions. Jason stood a few feet away until she noticed him. She sat up quickly and tried to dry her eyes, but the tears she wiped away were immediately replaced with new ones. She gave up trying to stop them and reached out for him. Jason ran to her and she gripped him tightly and cried into his hair.
"I'm sorry, baby," she said after a few minutes. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." She kept apologizing again and again. Jason didn't know what to say, so he said nothing. He just held her tighter until she calmed down.
After a while, Jason looked up at her. "Mommy?"
"Is Daddy coming back?"
Lois looked like she was going to start crying all over again. "I... I hope so, Jason. But everything-" Her voice cracked a little. "Everything's going to be okay." Jason wanted to believe her, but the tears welling in her eyes again made the words seem less than convincing.
After a little while, Lois seemed to have truly calmed down. She put together a sandwich, juice, crackers, fruit and cookies for Jason, as if the huge spread would make up for the missing person. She called work and said she was staying home for the rest of the day. She stayed with Jason all day. She talked to him about school, about his favorite books, what he wanted for dinner. Everything except Richard. Jason stayed with his mother until a few hours after dinner. He started to feel sleepy, and Lois asked if he was ready for bed. Jason nodded.
Lois looked a little nervous. "Do... do you think you want to sleep in mommy's room tonight?"
Jason shook his head. "I'm fine," he said.
"Okay, baby." She walked him to his room and stayed for a while, trying to make sure he had everything he needed. She checked the night light, the covers, the window, even offered his old teddy bear. When he guessed she couldn't check anything else, she kissed him goodnight. He thought he could see her eyes start to shine again when she took a last look him before shutting the door.
Jason lay in the bed, staring at the ceiling. He had been sleepy while he was downstairs, but now that he was in bed, he couldn't sleep at all. All he could think about was his father. Where was he? Was he coming back? His mother hadn't said yes when he asked her that question. What if he never came back? What if something bad happened to him? Richard wasn't home all the time, of course, but Jason always knew where he was. He never left Jason behind without telling him where he would be. What if he got mugged? What if he got stabbed? What if he got shot? What if Lex Luthor kidnapped him and tried to drown him?
Jason had worked himself into quite a state before long. He was crying again, but trying to keep quiet so that Lois wouldn't worry. He was on the verge of going into her room and sleeping with her after all, when there was a tap on his window. Jason sat up. Superman! He rubbed the tears out of his eyes and opened the window. Superman glided in, but his usual friendly smile vanished when he saw Jason's face. "What's wrong?" he asked, kneeling in front of Jason and touching his face gently. "What's happened, Jason?"
Jason's lip quivered, and he found it hard to say the words. "Daddy..." He looked down. "Daddy left us."
"H-he left," Jason said again. "The wall fell, and I caught it, and then he said it was okay and don't apologize for who you are, but then he had a fight with Mommy, and he-" The long stream of words stopped. Jason couldn't keep from crying anymore. He looked down, and his Kryptonian father pulled him close and held him while he cried. In a few minutes, Jason was lifted up, and Superman sat on his bed, settling Jason on his lap.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Superman asked.
Jason hadn't thought he wanted to talk, but this was the first time he'd been asked. "It's my fault," he said, blinking through the haze of tears. Jason felt Superman tense, but he didn't interrupt. Jason tried to be calm, but it wasn't working. He had kept himself from crying all day after Lois had stopped, and this was the first time he'd been able to talk about his feelings since Richard left. He described the event with the tree house and the guilt he felt for not telling his father the truth. He relayed the argument in great detail. Almost every word was burned into his memory. Superman seemed to tense again during his story, but Jason thought it must be because of the things his parents had said to each other.
"And then he drove away and Mommy was crying, and... if... if it wasn't for me..."
"If it wasn't for you, Jason," Superman said, "your father would have been very badly hurt. Maybe worse." Jason shuddered at the thought. "Sometimes having super powers can make life easier, Jason, but it can also be very hard. Revealing yourself when you might not be ready, or when the people around you aren't ready isn't very easy. But you did what was right. What happened after is not your fault."
Jason pressed himself harder against Superman, and got a squeeze in return. He was grateful to be told that he did the right thing, even though he knew there wasn't anything else he could have done. It was good to hear it from someone else - someone who also had to deal with the good and bad of special powers. Jason sighed, and he could feel his eyes watering again. "But... what if Daddy doesn't come back? What if he doesn't forgive Mommy?" He started breathing fast again. "What am I going to do, Clark?" Superman gasped and looked up sharply. Jason reddened. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry! I shouldn't have-"
"No, no, Jason," he said. "Don't worry. I don't want you to worry about anything." Jason allowed himself to calm down just a little. Superman glanced up at the door, then looked at Jason. "Listen to me," he said. "No matter what happens between your parents, your dad will never leave you. He loves you too much to do that to you."
"Trust me, Jason," he said gently. "Sometimes, when people get upset, they need to go away for a little while so they can calm down and think by themselves. Then, when they feel better, they come back home to the people who care about them and they do the best they can to make everything right."
"I'm positive, Jason. I'm sure it won't be long before you see your daddy again."
Superman seemed so sure of what he said that Jason had a hard time doubting him. He smiled, actually feeling better for the first time all evening. His second (or first) father wiped his tears away and settled him into the bed. "Are you leaving?"
"Yes, Jason. But you know I'm never far away."
Jason smiled again and watched Superman fly off. A second later, his door opened, and he turned sharply. He gasped and hopped out of bed. Superman was right! "Daddy!!!" Jason ran to his father and hopped into his open arms.
Richard squeezed him tight and kissed him. "I'm sorry, Jason," he said, his voice sounding a little strange. "I'm sorry I left you."
"It's okay, Daddy," he said. "You just needed to think."
Richard chuckled and gave Jason another kiss. Jason felt wetness on his face, and it wasn't from his own tears. His father brushed tears off his face and carried Jason back to bed. "Come on, son. It's way past bedtime."
Jason smiled when Richard called him "son". He snuggled down under the covers, and when his father tucked him in and kissed his forehead, he felt that nothing could ever be wrong in the world again.
Two hours earlier...
Richard stopped the car at a relatively deserted parking lot. He'd been driving aimlessly for the last several hours, barely able to form a coherent thought. Finally, the anger abated enough for him to think things over. The argument played over and over in his mind. Maybe he'd been unreasonable. Maybe it wasn't fair to keep throwing her relationship with Superman at her. But... it was kind of hard not to, when it kept coming out of the woodworks to turn Richard's world upside down. And surely Lois had been just as bad. She should have told him about Jason when she found out. She should have trusted him enough to know that he wouldn't resent Jason. He loved Jason.
There was a pang when he thought again about the realization that Jason wasn't his. He couldn't say "my son" anymore. Richard shook his head. That was just stupid. He'd raised Jason from birth, and he was as much Richard's son as he was Superman's. More, in fact, since Superman hadn't even seen Jason until a few months ago, much less had a hand in rearing him.
The more Richard thought about Jason, the worse he felt about walking out. Jason was probably worried. He would know by now that something was wrong. Lois would be worried, too, assuming she wasn't too angry at him to think about it. Richard sighed and started the car again. He couldn't stay out here all night, and it wouldn't be right to just go to a hotel. Angry as he was at Lois, he loved her too much to just walk after one argument (painful as that argument had been), without even trying to work things out.
As he approached the house, Richard began to feel nervous. What if she'd left and taken Jason with her? What if she didn't want to work things out, and handed him his ring back? Richard parked, and left the car as quietly as he could. He entered the house and looked around. No one downstairs. He went upstairs and peered into his bedroom. Lois was asleep on top of the covers, still dressed in her work clothes. The trashcan was full of crumpled tissues, and the floor was littered with them as well. He frowned. She'd been crying for a long time.
Richard considered tucking her in, but a slight sound caught his attention, and he headed for Jason's room. As he approached the door, he thought he could hear Jason crying. His hand was on the doorknob when he heard a deep voice ask, "Do you want to talk about it?"
Richard's face fell, and he couldn't decide whether to be angry that Superman had invaded his house, jealous that Superman was comforting Jason, or guilty knowing that he was the reason Jason needed comfort to begin with. Guilt and shame won out when he heard his son say, "It's my fault". He stood silent, listening to his son tell Superman all about the tree house. He was shocked when he heard Jason describe details of his bitter argument with Lois that he definitely shouldn't have been able to hear, and he was all the more disgusted with himself for leaving without checking on Jason first.
Richard thought he would like to be sucked down into the floor when he heard Jason begin to blame himself for showing his powers in the first place. He was more pleased than he thought he would be when Superman's voice was heard at last, giving Jason some fatherly (he had to think the word) advice on the difficulties of having special powers.
There was silence for a while, then Jason expressed more of his fears. "But... what if Daddy doesn't come back? What if he doesn't forgive Mommy?" Richard's hand was on the door again, but again he was brought up short, this time by Jason instead of Superman. "What am I going to do, Clark?"
Richard gasped. There were apologies from Jason, and reassurances from Super... Clark? Richard struggled to comprehend it. Superman was Clark? Clark was Superman?? He wouldn't have believed it if he hadn't just heard Jason say it to Superman and receive no rebuttal or surprise in return. Did Lois know about this? No. She couldn't. Richard took more notice of Clark than Lois did, and admittedly, Clark wasn't foremost on his mind at any particular time. Maybe that was part of the disguise.
Richard focused on the conversation again. "... people get upset, they need to go away for a little while so they can calm down and think by themselves. Then, when they feel better, they come back home to the people who care about them and they do the best they can to make everything right."
"Really?" Jason asked.
"I'm positive, Jason. I'm sure it won't be long before you see your daddy again." There was something in the way Superman said those words that almost made Richard think he knew more than he was telling Jason. Richard waited, now unwilling to interrupt the two. He heard Superman assure Jason that he would always be close by, then there was a little rustling, and the sound of a window closing.
Richard opened the door immediately, and was rewarded with the brightest smile he'd ever seen on his son's face. "Daddy!!!" Richard embraced his son, and there was a tearful reunion, though the tears were mostly on Richard's part. He was gratified to know that he had been instantly forgiven by Jason, and he could only hope that Lois would be as happy when he spoke to her. He tucked Jason into bed and left, closing the door gently behind him.
Richard jumped when he turned away from Jason's bedroom door. Lois was standing at the end of the hall, watching him with tears glistening in her eyes. "Lois! I thought you were asleep."
"I heard Jason," she said.
Richard walked toward her, uncertain whether he should try to hold her, or let her make the first move. "I-" they spoke at the same time. "You first," Richard said.
"I'm sorry," she said. "You were right, I should have told you about Jason. But I really didn't know how. I just... thought I'd figure something out when the time was right. Guess that didn't work out too well."
"You were right, too Lois. I didn't make it easy for you by being so paranoid about you and Superman."
Lois shook her head. "That's my fault, too. If I wasn't always so-"
"Shhh." Richard held a finger lightly to her lips. "It's not important anymore."
Lois brushed the last of the tears from her face. "Still. I'll work on it. And I'll be counting on you to make sure Perry doesn't force him on me anymore," she said with a playful smile.
"It's a done deal. I promise to try to work out my um... insecurity issues, too." She squeezed him into a tight embrace, then kissed him hard.
When they pulled away, Lois left her hand on his chest, and she stared at it for a few moments. "I could probably help with that," she whispered. "Richard?"
"Let's set a date."
"A date?" he asked.
"A wedding date."
A broad smile spread across Richard's face. At a loss for words, he just pulled her into his arms again and kissed her repeatedly. After a few seconds, the kisses grew more urgent, and they began making their way toward the bedroom. Before long, clothes were abandoned, lights were dimmed, and the two were deeply involved in a physical expression of their reconciliation.
Richard stood at the threshold of his office, staring at the back of Clark Kent's head. He was in deep discussion with one of the floating photographers (Jimmy had been assigned to help Lois for the week), and Richard found himself wondering how he'd ever been deceived. Maybe it was because he was working on a project, or because he wasn't aware of being scrutinized, but Clark seemed a lot less dorky than Richard remembered. Still. Even with the bumbling around, the poindexter glasses and the stammering indecisiveness, why hadn't he figured it out before? Clark looked a hell of a lot like Superman, and the paper printed huge photos of him every other day.
Richard shook his head. At least I'm not the only one who got duped, he thought. Clark did have a way of making himself seem invisible. Most people hardly knew he was there unless he was falling over something. Overall, he guessed it was a pretty damn good disguise.
Richard studied him for a few more seconds, before making his way over. They would have to interact some time, and he wanted to get all the... weirdness out of the way as soon as possible. He cleared his throat when he got within earshot, and they looked up suddenly. Clark looked slightly worried, but the photographer just smiled.
"Hi, Mr. White," she said brightly.
"Hi, Clara. I hope you don't mind, but I need to steal Clark away for a while." He looked at Clark. "Got time to talk?"
Clark glanced nervously at his partner, and shoved his glasses up from the middle like a total and complete dork. "Um... sure, Richard. We can finish this a little later, right Clara?"
Richard started walking toward the door, followed closely by Clark. "Can I buy you lunch, Clark?" he asked. "That bar down the block has pretty good food, I'm told."
"S-sure, that'd be swell."
Richard looked back at him with an amused smile, but Clark didn't seem to notice. Richard shook his head and led the way into the elevator. They were silent on the ride down. Richard exited the doors, but had to wait a little for Clark to catch up. He seemed to be having some trouble comprehending the revolving door. He stumbled out at last, gave Richard an apologetic smile, and started walking. Richard stared, wondering exactly how much of Clark Kent's goofiness was really an act.
The pub was only a block and a half away, and Richard chose the most secluded table he could find. He ordered something simple, not really caring what he ate at the moment, then looked seriously at Clark. "I, um." Richard cleared his throat, finding it difficult to bring up the subject now that he had Clark alone. "I know who you are."
Clark had become equally serious. "I know," he said.
Richard was surprised, but only for a moment. "You must have heard me outside the room."
"I saw you," Clark said. Richard remembered the x-ray vision and nodded. "I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't-"
"I won't," Richard said.
Clark let out a sigh of relief, and he seemed to relax considerably. "I'd rather she didn't know, either," he said. "It would be too complicated."
"I understand," Richard said. He chuckled. "Besides, I don't need any more competition than I already have."
"I know. She told me, it's over between you."
"But I think you should hear it from me," Clark said seriously. "Lois and I are over. It's part of the past, and it can't be revived. At this point, I don't think either of us wants it to be."
Richard nodded. He'd been fairly certain he was okay, but it was good to hear the words out of Superman's mouth. "About Jason," he said after a moment. Clark tensed slightly, but waited to hear what Richard had to say. "I just wanted you to know you, um... you're welcome to see him any time you want. I mean, it's not like I could stop you if I tried, but... I guess I wanted to tell you that I won't try. You've got every right to be a part of his life, and I'm not going to stand in your way."
Clark was staring at Richard with a huge smile across his face. "Thank you," he said. "I appreciate this, Richard. More than you can know." Richard was doubtful, but Clark shook his head. "Trust me." He lowered his voice considerably. "When you're the last of your race... of your species..." Clark was interrupted by the arrival of their food, but Richard thought he had a better idea of what he meant. No. He couldn't know what that was like. He could only imagine, and he didn't even want to try too hard to do that much. The very idea of being so utterly... alone was enough to make him shudder. Finding out he had a son must have meant the world to Clark, just as it had meant the world to Richard when he'd first held Jason in his arms.
When the wait staff left, Clark continued. "It means a lot to me that you're all right with me seeing Jason," he said. "You're... I'm..." Clark cleared his throat self consciously. "I'm glad he has you for a father."
Richard was extremely embarrassed by the statement, especially when it came from Jason's biological father. He thought he might actually be blushing. "Likewise," he whispered, knowing Clark would hear him all the same. Richard couldn't see Clark's reaction. He was too busy staring at his plate, concentrating on the serious business of sandwich eating. When he did finally glance up, he found that Clark seemed equally engrossed with his lunch. They ate in silence for the next few minutes, each leaving the other to his own thoughts.
Clark eventually broke the silence. "So how are things with Lois? If you don't mind me asking."
"Good. Great, actually. We worked some things out." He considered it for a moment, then decided to tell Clark the news. "We're getting married."
"Well, you are engaged," Clark said with a slightly confused frown.
"I mean we've set a date. The first of June. You're the first to know." Richard watched Clark's face carefully for any sign of resentment or disappointment, but he saw only a genuine smile.
"Congratulations, Richard," he said warmly. "I'm happy for you."
Richard smiled back. "Thanks, Clark," he said. "It's good to hear you say that." They spoke a little more about the wedding, and Richard asked Clark not to tell anyone just yet. "We haven't told our parents yet, and I know my mother would never forgive me if she knew I hadn't told her first."
Clark laughed. "Your secret's safe with me," he said.
They chatted pleasantly for a while longer. Richard was relieved that the two subjects that must have been weighing on Clark's mind as much as they had on his had been dispatched with good feelings on both sides. Clark's relaxed attitude showed that he must be relieved as well.
After the check had been taken care of, they walked back to the office. Richard noticed that the closer they got to the office, the more Clark's attitude changed. He slouched just a touch, played with his glasses more often, and his expression became one of mild bewilderment. Richard smiled at him, but said nothing. Once they got in the building, he pretended to take no notice at all, but he was more than amused. Definitely a good disguise.
Jason stepped back and admired the tree house. It was wonderful. There were two rooms instead of four, but it was more than enough to make Jason happy. It had windows with shutters, a porch, and a real staircase leading around the tree and down to the ground. There was even a tiny window box with plants that his mother had said were easy to take care of. "Wow," he said. "We did it."
"Yup," Richard said, gazing just as proudly.
Jason heard a click, and turned to see Lois smiling, with a camera in her hand. "I couldn't resist," she said. She looked at the finished product with admiration. "I can't believe you guys actually pulled it off! It's beautiful!"
Jason smiled. "Thanks, Mommy."
"We are pretty amazing, aren't we?" Richard said with a smile. "Come on, Jason, let's go inside." Jason led the way up the stairs, and into the tree house. His father had to duck just a little bit to get through the doorway, but there was room for him to stand once he got inside. Jason looked with pleasure at the inside of the house. There "living room" had a plushie arm chair that was just the right size for Jason, a flash light, a tiny book case that Richard had made from leftover wood, and a box for any toys he might want to keep out here. The second room was just big enough for a small mattress, blankets and a battery operated radio. "Great, isn't it?" Richard asked.
Jason nodded vigorously. "Can we have dinner up here?" he asked.
"Well... there's not much room for Mommy, but tell you what. We'll eat dinner first, and we'll come out here with dessert. We can bring a game up, or we can read some comics together. How does that sound?"
Jason nodded again. He was still reluctant to leave, but he let his father lead him back down and into the house.
Jason was pleased to see that his parents seemed to have made up completely. They smiled and kissed each other a lot more than usual, and his mother didn't seem to work as much at night or on weekends. Before long, there were visits from both sets of his grandparents, and there were talks about wedding locations, decorations and money matters.
Jason spent as much time as he could in his tree house, sometimes with his father, sometimes alone. He brought some of his favorite books and a few toys to remain there permanently, and soon it became just like his second home. The first time Superman came after the tree house was built, he glided to the small window and knocked hesitantly. Jason invited him inside, but Superman shook his head. He said it was a special place for him and Richard, and he didn't want to change that.
Jason understood, and he was glad that he didn't have to feel guilty about not sharing his tree house with his other father. "Will we ever have a special place?" Jason asked.
Superman looked up for a few moments, and his face looked sad. "We will," he said. "It's not ready right now, but we will. I'll take you there one day."
Jason smiled. He brought a blanket out to the porch and settled down snugly against the wall. "Do you have time to tell me a story?"
Superman sat down on a nearby branch and smiled. "I always have time for you, Jason," he said. "Always."