By Piper (email@example.com
Summary: A weary, battle-scarred Clark returns from New Krypton with a heavy heart and some shattering news for Lois. A story that picks up from the episode "Big Girls Don't Fly." These characters don't belong to me. I just borrowed them for a little while to play with. But I always pick up my toys when I'm through with them and I'll pick these up, too, and put them back where they belong.
This is my first fan fiction story so I'd really like to hear what you think of it - good, bad, or indifferent. Thanks.
Jonathan Kent was alone for the first time in a week and he planned to enjoy himself. This morning he'd kissed and hugged Martha and Lois good-bye and sent them off - after assuring them that he would be fine on his own for a few hours - for some shopping, and lunch in town. Now Jonathan had an appointment with a ham & swiss on rye, his favorite chair, and the Midwestern State basketball championship game on TV.
Adding the final touches to his lunch, he glanced up at the clock. Almost noon - the game would be on soon. He swiped a dishcloth across the counter to clean up any stray crumbs, then picked up his plate in one hand, and a glass of milk in the other, and adjourned to the den.
Jonathan settled back into his easy chair and picked up his remote control, clicking to the channel the game would be on. On the screen, the pre-game show broke for the five minute "News at Noon". He only halfway listened, preferring to concentrate on his sandwich, but he looked up at a familiar phrase by the anchor. "In an article that appeared today in the Metropolis Daily Planet…"
The Daily Planet. Even now, almost a year and a half since Clark has left, that name could still strike a painful chord in him. The last time he'd seen his son, and the last time Lois had seen the man she loved, had been in the City Room of the Planet. The memories had been too painful for Lois. She'd quit the paper.
Using her contacts in the business, she had made a nice living for herself doing free-lance articles for magazines and journals. Her writing and investigative skills were always in demand. And just six weeks ago, she had published her first novel, a serious work that had already risen to number one on the New York Times Bestseller list. Reviewers had commented on the depth and stark realism of the main character's agony, loss, and blind rage, little knowing that the author had drawn these emotions from events in her own experience.
When Clark left for New Krypton with Zara and Ching, Lois was shattered, both mentally and physically. Her grief could not have been greater if he had died that day. At least Jonathan and Martha had each other but, for the first time in a long time, Lois felt completely alone.
After she quit the Planet, Lois drifted for a while, writing articles by day, and running from her demons at night. The Kents heard from her several times - once in a while a call, but usually a brief note describing where she was and always ending with, "I'm fine, Mom & Dad. I love you both. I know he'll be back. Lois."
Then one rainy day, she showed up at the farm. Martha saw her through the kitchen window, just standing in the yard, in the rain, staring at the house. She was thin and pale. Grief and exhaustion seemed to be battling for ownership of her small body. Calling for Jonathan, Martha ran out into the rain to bring her inside. She wrapped her arms around Lois' thin frame and guided her up the steps, across the porch, and into the warm kitchen. While Jonathan fixed a cup of tea, Martha rubbed Lois' arms and legs with towels, trying to warm her quickly. It was frightening because Lois was so very quiet, a deep-down-in-the- soul kind of stillness. She was trembling with a chill, and tears were sliding down her face. When she finally spoke, Martha had to strain to hear. "He's not coming back, is he?" She pulled Lois into her arms, holding her tightly. A moment later, Jonathan wrapped his arms around both of them.
That night, on Martha's computer, Lois had begun to write. By dawn, the pages that had started as a cathartic exercise had taken on a life of their own. She wrote continually for days, eating only when Martha or Jonathan stood over her. And when her eyelids grew too heavy to keep them open, she dropped onto Clark's bed for a couple of hours of sleep before rising, and beginning again.
Early on the morning of the 9th day, Martha came into the kitchen to start breakfast. On the table was Lois' manuscript, completed. The cover page read simply 'The Hero, by Lois Lane.' Martha read the first page as she crossed the den toward Clark's bedroom. On his bed, Lois lay sleeping peacefully, wearing an old football jersey of Clark's.
"She must have found that in his dresser," thought Martha, absently, as she pulled the quilt up from the foot of the bed to shield Lois from the cool morning air, and sat down in the old rocker to read. After a few minutes, Jonathan came looking for her, with two mugs of coffee. Martha looked up from the manuscript, her eyes bright with unshed tears, and handed her husband the pages she had finished. Jonathan sat down at Clark's old desk to read.
The coffee, untouched, got cold, as the Kents read the manuscript. Sometimes one or the other would chuckle at something they read; other times, tears would slip unnoticed down Martha's face, and Jonathan would clear his throat, roughly. And Lois slept dreamless for the first time in months.
As he finished the last page, Jonathan looked over to the bed where Lois slept. His eyes were suspiciously bright as he shook his head. "I can't believe she's been carrying all this around inside of her," he said in a husky voice.
"C'mon, honey," said Martha, softly, rising from the rocker. "Let's let her sleep." Jonathan followed her out, stopping by the bed to pull the cover up higher and brush his hand over Lois' hair.
The Hero was accepted immediately by a major publishing house. The day it hit the streets, it was listed at #4 on the New York Times Bestsellers List. Now, 6 weeks later, it was at #1.
Almost daily Lois was asked in an interview, or just by someone in passing, "Where did you get this story? Is this someone you know?" Each time Lois gave the same answer. "It's something I've been working on for a while," she would say, with a sad smile.
Last week, Lois had come back to the farm to spend time with the only two people on Earth who knew her heart. It was the old Lois again, with a spring in her step and color in her cheeks. She had gained back the weight she had lost, and when she smiled, you could see the shine in her eyes. For the first time, she could talk about Clark, and remember the good times, and laugh about the funny things he'd said and done. She was finally at peace.
Jonathan picked up the copy of 'The Hero' from the lamp table by his chair, and flipped through it, stopping to read the dedication. *For my husband Clark, who kept me safe, and holds my heart.* As he moved his finger across the print, he heard the familiar creaking of the screen door opening. Chuckling, Jonathan stood up. "What's the matter, girls, did you decide not to…" As he turned to face the door he was stunned to see, not his wife, but a tall, lean figure in a black tunic, black pants tucked into soft boots, and a thigh length black jacket, standing just inside the front door.
It was Clark.
His hair was longer, and an ugly scar stood out on his forehead. And he was thin - so painfully thin.
"Clark!" In an instant Jonathan bounded across the room and threw his arms around his son. "I can't believe you're here. We - we thought we'd never see you again."
"I'm here, Dad," Clark grinned, looking a little tired, but happy.
Jonathan stepped back, has arms outstretched, unwilling to let go of Clark even for an instant. "Let me take a look at you, son." He grinned, and pulled Clark close again. "Dear God, how we've missed you!" he said softly. "Are you all right? You're so thin!"
"I'm fine, Dad," chuckled Clark. "Let's sit down - I've got a lot to tell you." He looked around, expectantly. "Where's Mom?" he asked, as they sat down at the kitchen table.
"She and Lois have gone into town."
Clark's face brightened even more. "Lois is here?"
Jonathan grinned. "She sure is. They should be back in a few hours, and I can't wait to see the look on her face when she sees you."
"How is she?"
"She's fine, son," said Jonathan. "Just fine." His face clouded a little. "I think you should know, Clark - she had a pretty rough time of it for a while after you left." He got up from the table and retrieved the copy of Lois' book from the lamp table, turning off the TV as he passed it. The game was underway but he'd definitely lost interest in college basketball for the moment. He handed the book to Clark, who read the author's note on the back. "Lois wrote this?" he asked, surprised. Then he grinned. "It's not about Wanda Detroit, is it?" Jonathan smiled and shook his head. Clark opened to the dedication and read it, glancing up at his Dad. Then he flipped through the book, reading it at super-speed. After the last page, he looked up again. But this time, he looked horror-stricken. "My God, Dad," he said softly. "What have I done to her?"
"You're back now, son," said Jonathan, laying a hand across his son's arm. "That's the most important thing." He stood up. "I'm going to fix you something to eat, and I want you to tell me what's happened to you - start from the beginning.
Jonathan re-heated some homemade soup for Clark, and made him a sandwich to go along with it. While he ate, Clark talked about the battle to protect New Krypton from Lord Norr, and the invading factions that would have destroyed it.
When he and Ching and Zara had reached New Krypton, Norr had already made his move on the seat of power. He and his men were in control of the city. Zara had been right about the affect a new Son of El would have on the people - and that the joining of the two great Houses, El and Ra, would have on the nobility. For the first time in years, the various Houses were united in one cause, the defeat of Norr. The underground rallied around Kal-el and the battle raged at the lowest level of the streets, as well as in the highest Council Chambers. For the first time, fighting without his powers, Clark understood fear on a primal level. He watched men, so many men who looked to him for leadership, die at the hands of the enemy. He became a target for more of Norr's assassination attempts, several of which came very close.
"What finally happened to Norr?" asked Jonathan.
Clark looked away, unable to meet his father's even gaze. "He died." From his tone of voice, and the pained expression on his face, Jonathan knew better than to ask for more than that.
As he spoke, Clark seemed to age right in front of Jonathan's eyes. The death and destruction he had seen he would carry with him for the rest of his life. Jonathan could see the horror reflected in his eyes. He had that look - the one Jonathan had seen as a young man in Korea. The old soldiers who had seen too much, and lost too much, had it to protect them from the past and shield them from the present - they called it the thousand yard stare.
Jonathan reached across the table and brushed a lock of Clark's hair back off his forehead. He gingerly touched the scar on his forehead. It was about 2 inches long, and looked deep and painful. "How'd you get this, son?"
"Laser rifle." One or two word answers. The memories were too recent and painful for more than that. To say too much about them would bring back the nightmares that had filled Clark's nights for so long.
There was one more question Jonathan needed to ask, almost afraid to hear the answer. "Well, son, if it was so important that you be there as the last Son of the House of El, to unite the different nobles, what's protecting the colony now? What's to keep it from starting all over?"
Clark took a deep breath and said, slowly, "I've - made some arrangements that should work out." Then he stood up from the table and stretched his arms over his head, yawning. "Dad, I'm really exhausted. I think I'll go take a nap before Mom & Lois get back." He came up behind Jonathan, who was washing the soup pan, and wrapped his arms around his father. "I'm so glad to be home, Dad. You have no idea how glad…"
Jonathan chuckled and patted his arm. "I think I have a pretty good idea, Clark. Now go get some sleep before Lois & your mother get back."
"One more thing, son," asked Jonathan, as Clark headed for his old room. "What about Superman? Is he back, too?"
"I don't know, Dad," sighed Clark. "How's it been without him?"
"We've missed him."
Clark shook his head and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "I'm too tired to even think about that now, Dad. Except for flying down from the ship that brought me here, I haven't used any of my powers in a long time." He smiled sadly. "Think I can remember how they work?"
"Get some rest, Son. I'll call you when Lois and Martha get home."
Jonathan sat back to down to try to watch the last few minutes of the game, but he'd lost interest completely. He sat down at his desk to finish a letter he'd started that morning but words just escaped him. His boy was home; he was alive and he had come home, and nothing else seemed to matter right now. "Thank you, Lord," he murmured, sending a brief prayer heavenward.
He knew that there were things that Clark hadn't told him, probably never would, about the things that he'd seen, and lived through on New Krypton. Clark, as protective as ever, would try to shield the people he loved from his pain, not realizing that shared pain dissipates so much faster to be replaced with joy. Hopefully, Lois would get him to open up.
The door to Clark's room was half open and Jonathan peeked in to check on him. Clark slept soundly on his back, one arm thrown over his head, the other across his stomach… floating about 15 inches above the bed. Jonathan grinned at the sight. He knew it happened when Clark was really exhausted, and that no amount of pushing would get him back down on the bed. The funny thing was that, like a snorer denies the amount of noise he makes, Clark always denied that he floated.
Around 4:00, as Jonathan was stirring around the kitchen to start dinner, he heard the car pull up to the house. He walked out onto the porch to meet them.
"Hi, sweetheart," said Martha, as she got out from behind the wheel. "Did you enjoy your day all by yourself?"
Lois laughed. "Martha said that was the reason you wanted us to go into town for the day, you just wanted a little peace and quiet."
Martha stopped in front of her husband. Something was going on. She knew him too well to be fooled for a minute. Tilting her head curiously, she said "What is it, Jonathan? What are you grinning at?"
"We have company."
"Oh? Who is it?" asked Lois.
"He was really tired," continued Jonathan, "so he's asleep on your bed, Lois…actually, about two feet over your bed."
It only took a second for his words to register with Lois.
"Clark? He's here?!" She dropped the shopping bags she'd been holding and ran into the house, and they heard her calling him as she ran.
"He's home?" whispered Martha, stunned, not daring to believe what she'd just heard.
Jonathan wrapped his arms around her. "He's home."
Dinner that night was a joyful, boisterous party. The horrible events that Clark had described to his father had no place here, only funny stories and descriptions about some of the people he'd met there, and the silly mistakes he'd made the first few days learning to live without his powers. Nothing of the terrible months that had finally led Lois to write her book was allowed, only funny stories of people she'd met, and places she'd seen on her book tour. Martha hovered over Clark, constantly refilling his plate.
At the end of the meal, Martha said, "Clark, why don't you and Lois go on outside for a while - it's such a nice evening - and your father and I will do these dishes."
"Okay, Mom, that's a great idea." He stood up and took Lois' hand. "You up for a walk, city girl?"
"Sure thing, farm boy."
They headed down the path towards the pond. Just out of sight of the house, Clark stopped and pulled Lois behind a tree and into his arms, kissing her soundly. "I've been wanting to do this all night," he said, hungrily, taking her lips again. "I missed you so much."
"I love you," she said against his mouth. "When you left, I wanted to die…" She slid her hands around his waist, inside his tunic, wanting to feel his skin against hers. On the right side of his lower back, she felt a rough scar. "What's this from?"
"Double blade knife," he said, distractedly, nuzzling her neck, and running his hands up and down her back and hips.
She slid her hands up the long muscles in his back, and found another injury just below the curve of his shoulder. "And this?"
"Crystal point," he murmured, kissing her again.
Her hands slid around from his back, to rest on his chest. He felt so much leaner than before, but just as warm to her touch. She lightly flicked her fingertip across his nipple and was delighted when he gasped with pleasure. Sliding her hand across the hard muscles of his stomach, her fingers found several small wounds together. "How 'bout these?"
He lifted his head. "Lois, would you stop playing connect the dots with my scars and just kiss me?"
After a few minutes, he said softly, "We'd better get back before they come looking for us."
She laughed lightly. "You don't really think they'd do that, do you?"
He caressed the side of her face. "I want more than just necking in the woods with you, Lois." His voice was low, and husky with desire.
"Me too." she said softly, and she closed and smoothed his tunic where she'd pushed it out of way. "There, you look respectable again."
They walked back, arm in arm, to the house.
"Let's sit on the porch for a minute," said Clark, suddenly. "I want to talk to you."
He sat on the top step, leaning against the side of the porch rail. Lois sat down beside him, and rested her head against his chest, her arms around his waist. "I nearly went crazy missing you so much, sweetheart," she whispered. "All I could think about was being in your arms, of that last night before you left - how hot your skin felt against mine, how your hair felt like silk running through my fingers," she raked her fingers through his hair, then smiled up at him, "…the lazy you way smiled at me, totally relaxed, after we…"
Clark seemed kind of distracted, as if his mind was elsewhere. He wasn't responding to her intimate words the way Lois expected him to.
"Hey, in case you haven't noticed, I'm trying to seduce you." Lois poked at his chest with her finger. "Either you're not paying attention, or I'm just not doing it right."
"Actually, I did notice, and for the record, you're definitely doing it right." Clark leaned down to capture her lips with his own, slipping his hand around the side of her neck, his thumb caressing the side of her face lovingly. After a moment, though, he pulled away and sat back. He took her hands in his, lacing their fingers together. A shadow seemed to pass over his face and his smile slipped away. "But I have talk to you first. There's something I… I need to tell you."
"You weren't *wounded* in battle were you," Lois teased.
He laughed. "No, everything's still in working order, thanks."
But she recognized immediately that he had mentally - if not physically - backed away from her.
"Clark, what is it?" asked Lois, softly. She reached up and brushed a lock of hair off his face and caressed the side of his cheek. He brought his hand up to cover hers and, turning his face into her hand, kissed her palm. "Please," she said. "I love you. You know you can tell me anything."
Once again, Clark dropped his hands to his lap and followed them with his eyes. "Do you remember what I said to you that night?"
Lois smiled. "Of course…you told me that you would always love me, and that in your heart, you were my husband, that no matter what happened, I should never forget that." She paused, needing to ask but suddenly afraid to hear the answer. "What *did* happen, Clark? What do you need to tell me?"
"I need you to trust me, Lois. Trust that I love you, and believe that I meant, and still mean, every word I said."
"Clark, you're scaring me. What is it?"
"Lois, the laws of Krypton, and of New Krypton, are very specific concerning the designation of a ruler. He *must* be a Son of the House of El."
She sat back, stiffly. "Clark, what are you saying? Do you have to go back?" Her eyes widened and the pitch of her voice jumped up a notch. "That's it, isn't it? You're leaving again…"
"No, no, Lois. I'll never go back. My life is here, with you, and I promise I'll never leave you again." Clark shifted uncomfortably. "Someone else will rule in my place."
Lois tilted her head, curiously. "Is it Zara? She's your wife by their law - can she rule in your place?"
"No," said Clark, his voice low and rough. Just then a cloud passed in front of the moon and Clark's face was shrouded in darkness. "No, it's a completely patriarchal society - with family names and heritage passed only from father to son."
Lois' eyes grew wide, panicky, not wanting to hear the words she suddenly knew were coming. "Oh, my God…" she choked.
"I have a son, Lois. When he grows up, he will be the hereditary ruler of New Krypton."
Lois dropped his hands as if they suddenly burned her skin, and leapt to her feet. "A son? You mean…a baby?"
Clark nodded slowly.
She stood very still, frozen to the spot, staring at him in stunned silence for a moment "Was it one of those…those, you know…artificial test tube things?"
He met her gaze evenly. He thought for half a second about giving her the answer she wanted. But he loved her too much. Lying was not an option.
Lois began to pace furiously up and down the length of the porch. Then she stopped, abruptly, "You and Zara? I mean, Zara's his mother?" She resumed her pacing, not waiting for an answer. "Of course, Zara. That's what wives *do* for their husbands. Lucky you, Kent - you seem to have one around every corner - ready to jump into bed with you whenever you get the urge."
"Lois!" Clark stood up suddenly and stopped her, holding her arms down at her side. "It wasn't like that."
But Lois' anger and hurt feelings refused to allow her to listen to any explanation he might have. "Let go of me, you bastard!" she screamed at him, struggling futilely. "You said you loved me and I was dumb enough to believe it."
"I do love you," Clark yelled back, matching her tone for tone, "…and I've never lied to you. I didn't have to tell you about him at all but I did. Now will you listen to me?!"
"You didn't love me enough not to sleep with *her*," Instinctively she knew that she could cross the line at any time, say something she would regret the rest of her life but she was filled with such rage - she wanted her words to cut, to hurt. "I wasn't enough woman for you?" She spit the words at him. "Once you found out what you'd been missing all this time you couldn't wait to try it with a 'hometown girl'?" She twisted beneath his hands. "Let go of me!"
Her words felt to Clark like a fist to his gut. Did she think so little of him, the things they'd said to each other, that she could take a precious gift and throw it back at him like that?
He could taste the bile rising in his throat, and fought to stay in control of his anger.
"You don't have any idea what I wanted, what I've been through in the last 18 months," he yelled back at her. "What *Zara* and I went through…"
"You're right," she retorted, sarcastically. "I *don't* know what you went through. But I know what *I* went through. I thought I'd never see you again. But, silly me, I thought we had something different. *Somehow* I managed *not* to throw myself at the first man who looked at me. My God, you're just like my father…"
"Is that what you think? You think that, since I couldn't have you, and Zara just happened to be there…And I am *not* like your father."
Lois' eyes were bright with fury; it seemed to radiate from her like heat. Clark had never seen her so angry. And he never thought he could be so angry at her, or so hurt by her words.
"Take your hands off me," she said, coldly.
He released his hold on her and stepped back. She spun on her heel and ran into the house, slamming the door behind her. Clark followed right on her heels, also slamming the door.
The sound of the argument on the porch had carried throughout out the house. Martha and Jonathan were standing in the living room when they came in. "What's going on here?" demanded Jonathan.
Lois spun on Clark, glaring at him. "Have you told them yet?!"
Clark glared back at her and answered stonily. "No, I wanted to tell you first."
Martha stepped forward, putting her hand on his chest. "Tell us what, sweetheart?" she asked gently.
But before he could respond, Lois answered for him. "Congratulations, it's a boy." A sob caught in her throat. "You have a grandson," and she ran into Clark's room, slamming that door as well.
Martha stared at her son for a second before she turned and followed Lois. Jonathan turned back to Clark. "Clark, what is Lois talking about?" he asked. "You have a child?"
"Dad…" Clark reached his hand out toward his father, then clenching his fist, dropped it back to his side. With a deep sigh, he turned away and stormed out onto the porch.
Jonathan followed him. "Clark Kent, don't turn your back on me. Now tell me what's going on. Just what did Lois mean when she said we have a grandson?"
Clark leaned heavily against the porch rail, and rubbed his hand through his hair several times, a gesture Jonathan recognized from his childhood that meant that Clark was frustrated and angry.
"Now just calm down, son, and tell me what's wrong. Why are you and Lois fighting - you haven't seen each other in over a year!"
"She just doesn't understand; she's so stubborn and she won't listen to me when I try to explain…"
"Explain what, Clark? You're not making any sense. Now calm down and tell me what's going on? You told her you had a son?"
Clark jammed his hands in his pockets and, began to pace the length of the porch. "When I got to New Krypton, and saw what was going on, I realized that there would never be a time when I could leave. The various Houses were too strong. As long as there was an El ruling, they would be united and the peace could be maintained. But the first time there was an empty throne, it would start again. Norr was just the first. I had to stay. As much as I loved you and Mom, and Lois, I had a responsibility to these people. But I was miserable."
"Go on, son," encouraged Jonathan.
"One day, I was talking to one of the Elders," Clark stopped his pacing and leaned against the porch rail, smiling at the memory of the clever old man. "Kiron - you would have loved him, Dad. Totally no-nonsense - whenever I got depressed, he would call me a young fool and tell me to straighten up and act like the ruler I was. He was warm and funny, and someone I could always count on for a straight answer." Clark looked up at Jonathan. "He reminded me a lot of you, Dad.
"Anyway, according to the law, there had to be a Son of the House of El on the throne. Kiron pointed out that Jor-el had been a Son of El, as was his father before him, and as would be…" he faltered.
"Your son," finished Jonathan, softly.
"My son." Clark stood up suddenly and resumed stalking the length of the porch. "I said, no, no way. I was totally, completely in love with, and committed to, Lois. And Zara - the law said Zara was my wife but I could never think of her like that. She and Ching and I had fought side by side. We had faced death together almost daily during the fighting. She saved my life, and I saved hers a dozen times. I did love her, but more as a friend… or even a sister… than anything else. Besides, I knew she cared for Ching."
"Zara came into the room in time to hear the last part of the conversation. The three of us, Zara, Kiron, and I, talked for hours, round and round. After Kiron left, Zara said, 'Kal-el, you are my husband, but I know your heart is with Lois…as mine is with Ching. Events set into motion long before our births have brought us to this moment, this place, and to the peace we've finally won for New Krypton. A Son of El must rule, or the any of the Nobles can challenge, and New Krypton won't survive another challenge. But I know how unhappy you've been…'
"It seemed like the only solution. If there was an heir, another Son of the House of El, I could step down. Zara could rule as regent until he grew up. She could have Ching. And I could come home. So finally…I agreed."
Clark stopped pacing and dropped heavily onto the bench across from where Jonathan sat in the porch swing. He leaned his forearms on his thighs, and, unable to meet his father's sad, compassionate gaze, lowered his eyes to the floor. He sat like that for a moment, his breathing ragged.
Jonathan rested his hand gently on his son's shoulder and, leaning in closer, murmured, "Take your time, son. I'm right here."
Clark took a deep breath, then continued. "The night before I left Earth, I told Lois that in my heart, I was her husband. She said that in her heart, she was my wife. We…were…together for the first time that night." He looked up, his eyes shining, wet. "It was like we were one person in two bodies, like she was my other half that I'd finally found." he said, softly. "I couldn't have imagined that so much love was possible." The tears that had threatened now spilled over and slid down his cheeks. He roughly swiped his hand across his face. "When I thought I might never see her again, I wanted to die."
Jonathan rubbed Clark's shoulder gently. "I know, son," he said.
"With Zara," Clark continued softly, "it was - almost mechanical. There was no love, no passion, just…" He felt the color rise to his cheeks at the memory of that first awkward, embarrassing night, the shame he felt when his body responded to Zara's, the terrible guilt after it was over. "After a while, I found that I could kind of 'put everything on auto-pilot' and let my mind just wander." He looked up and grinned as Jonathan chuckled at the thought. Then he sighed. "When she told me she was pregnant, it was more of a relief than anything."
Clark sat up and reached into the deep pocket of his jacket. From it, he pulled what looked like a piece of dark plastic square about three by three inches.
"Here," he said, handing the chip to Jonathan. As Jonathan held the chip, a picture appeared of a tiny creature with a shock of dark hair, and serious blue eyes. A series of markings beneath the picture seemed to be a caption of some sort.
"Jon-el," said Clark, softly. Jonathan looked up quickly and into his son's eyes. "I named him for you."
"Is this Kryptonian?" asked Jonathan, fingering the strange markings. "What does it say?"
"'Behold Jon-el, a Noble of Krypton, born out of the House of Ra, and into the House of El'"
"When was he born, Clark?"
"Four days before I left."
Jonathan traced the outline of his grandson's face with his finger while Clark continued. "While he was being born, Ching and I waited in the ante-room. Even then, it didn't seem real. Then the attendant brought him out and put him in my arms and said 'My Lord Kal-El, here is your son'. He was so tiny and helpless - my first thought was 'I can't leave him. Who'll take care of him, protect him, answer his questions? Who'll teach him how to be a man?' But then I saw Ching there and I had my answer. I handed the baby to him and said 'Ching, I give you my son' and I knew he would be all right."
Clark leaned close to his father and looked at the picture.
"But I never thought it would be so hard to let him go." He touched the tiny face on the picture-chip. "My son. For the first time, I realized how Jor-el must have felt, knowing he would never see his child grow up, entrusting this tiny little life to someone else to raise."
Jonathan smiled at Clark. "Son, I'm sure that Ching will love your son as much as we love Jor-el's." He stood up, pulled Clark to his feet, and wrapped his arms around his son, hugging him affectionately. "I love you, son, and I'm so glad you're home. I know that, once you explain it to her, Lois will understand the reason for what you did."
"I hope you're right, Dad. But she's so angry right now, I don't know if I can even try to talk to her right now, if I even *want* to talk to her. We said some pretty awful things to each other."
"So we heard," grimaced his father. "Don't worry about that right now, son. Your mother's gone to talk to her. She'll get her to calm down."
Martha tapped lightly at the door, "Lois, honey, can I come in?" There was no answer, so Martha took a deep breath and pushed open the door and into the room.
Lois lay curled up on the bed, her back to the door. Her shoulders were shaking with the sobs that wracked her whole body. Martha sat down beside her and put her hand on Lois' back, alternately rubbing and patting, and murmuring soothingly, "That's all right, sweetheart, just let it out…"
After a few minutes, the sobbing had stopped, and Lois slowly sat up to face Clark's mother. Martha gently rubbed her finger across Lois's face, brushing away stray tears. "There, now. That's better," she said, gently. "Now, Lois, what was that all about? Tell me what's going on between you and Clark. What were you talking about, that we have a 'grandson'?"
"How could he, Martha? How could he do this to me?" Her voice broke, and unshed tears glistened in the corners of her eyes. "I feel so stupid. All this time I thought…I thought…"
"What did he do, Lois?"
Lois wiped a stray tear from her cheek and tried to keep her voice steady. "He went to Zara. I wasn't there…he and Zara…and now they have a baby together…"
Martha sat back, stunned. A baby There was much more to this than Lois was telling her, she was sure of that. There was no way Clark would betray Lois, as much as he loved her. "Oh, honey, are you sure? Tell me exactly what he said."
Lois swallowed, and smoothed her skirt with her hands. "He said that there had to be a Son of the House of El on the throne."
"And…" prompted Martha.
"And he slept with Zara!" said Lois, in a higher pitch than usual. Hysteria was back, right around the corner. "Isn't that enough?!"
"But, Lois, think about it - as much as Clark loves you, he just wouldn't do that." Martha said, reasonably. "There's got to be more to this story than you know."
Lois shook her head, sadly. Unable to sit still any longer, she stood up and began to wander around the room, her arms wrapped around her body as if trying to ward off a sudden chill.
"When I was a little girl, my grandmother got very sick. Mom went to take care of her and was gone for a couple of months. That was the first time my father had an affair. Oh, he wasn't *open* about it, but he didn't hide it very well - it was with the woman Mom had hired to take care of Lucy and me while she was gone."
"Lois…" began Martha, but the younger woman continued speaking.
"That was the first time I realized that, for some men, promises only matter as long as both people are there to keep them." She stopped at Clark's old desk and ran her fingers lightly over the surface. "But I never thought that Clark would be one of those men." Her voice broke. "I thought he was different but I guess I was wrong…"
"No," said Martha, quietly. "You're not wrong, Lois. Clark loves you. He wouldn't betray that love. There *must* be more to this story than you know."
"All I know," said Lois, "is that she has his baby, and it was supposed to me…I love him so much." Lois sat back down in front of Martha on the bed, and with a distant look in her eyes, said softly, "The night before he left, Clark made love to me for the first time." At Martha's expression, Lois blushed and dropped her face into her hands. "Oh, God, I can't believe I just said that to you."
Martha just smiled, and patted her knee. "That's all right, sweetheart. I'm so thankful he finally found you. Go on, what you were going to say?"
Lois dropped her hands to her lap, and followed them with her gaze. "We had…waited. We planned to wait until we were married but when I thought he might never come back again…Later, I watched him sleep and I prayed 'please let me be pregnant.' I thought I'd never see him again and suddenly, I wanted so badly to have his baby." She was rambling, lost in the memory of that night.
Martha's eyes filled. She was very familiar with that particular prayer. She took Lois' hands into her own. "You will, Lois. You and Clark will have lots of children."
She shook her head. "But if he loved me, why would he go to her?"
Martha brushed a stray lock of hair back off of Lois' face. "I don't know, Lois, but I do know that Clark loves you more than life itself. You need to give him a chance to explain." She tipped Lois' chin up with one finger, forcing her to meet her gaze. "And you need to *listen* to his explanation. Clark isn't like your father, Lois, you know that. He is one of the most honest and honorable men I've ever known." She smiled. "And I'm not just saying that because he's my son. After all, he didn't have to say anything at all about what happened with Zara. There's no way you would ever have known, but he told you anyway."
Lois sighed. "That's what Clark said."
"He was being completely honest with you, not hiding anything from you, even though he had to know it would hurt both of you if it came out. It didn't sound like you gave him much of a chance to explain. You need to hear him out."
"No," said Lois, sadly. "He'll never speak to me again. I was so angry, I said some terrible, terrible things to him. He'll never forgive me."
"Yes he will, you'll see."
But Lois shook her head. "Even if he does, we've always known that it might be impossible for us to have children. But Clark always said that it didn't matter, as long as we had each other. We could always adopt." She shook her head. "But now - now he has a son of his own somewhere. And if he can't have children with me, he'll always remember Zara, and their child. Every time he sees a little boy with dark hair and eyes, he'll wonder about his little boy. I can't really blame him for not wanting to pass up the chance to have a child that was really his."
"Lois." Clark stood at the open door, with Jonathan behind him. He looked haggard and tired, and the tracks of recent tears were evident on his face. Martha got up and quickly left the room, saying something about taking a walk, and Jonathan followed right behind her, closing the door after him.
"Lois, please - we have to talk. There's so much I need to say to you." Clark slowly crossed the room and sat down on the bed, facing Lois. For a while, she avoided his gaze, alternately hurt and angry, but wanting to hear his explanation. Finally, she looked up into his eyes. In them, she could see the damage that her words had done. He had been hurt by the things that she had said, and was feeling almost as betrayed as she was.
"I'm sorry for the things I said, Clark," she said sadly. "I didn't mean them. I know how much our being together - what we had - meant to you. You can't blame me for being upset - you told me that you were my husband, but then when I wasn't around, you went to Zara. You hurt me, Clark. You really did. And I just wanted to hurt you back."
"I love more than my life, Lois." He sat back and looked into her eyes. "But before we can go on, I have to tell you - everything, and you have to listen to me or we'll never be able to get around it."
He talked for a long time, about what he'd seen and done with the underground on New Krypton, how miserable he'd been, about Kiron and his suggestion, about Zara, and, finally, about little Jon-el.
And she listened.
Around ten, Martha and Jonathan came back from their walk. They'd stayed gone a couple of hours to give 'the kids' time to talk. They walked down the path to the pond, and sat under a tree on the bank for a time, talking. Jonathan told Martha some of what Clark had told him that afternoon about the fight for New Krypton. Martha was horrified at the things her gentle son had seen and been forced to do.
"Now, tell me about Zara," she'd prompted Jonathan. He told her everything Clark had said, leaving out the part about Lois, and their last night together. When he repeated Clark's comment about 'being on auto-pilot', she laughed out loud. "Now I know *your* secret, Jonathan."
When they came back inside it was quiet. "At least they're not arguing anymore." said Jonathan.
Martha slipped her arm around her husband's waist and leaned her head against his chest. "Oh, Jonathan, what's going to happen to them? The terrible things they said to each other, I don't know if they can survive."
The door to Clark's room was closed as they passed it, on the way to their own bedroom.
"I know, sweetheart," replied Jonathan. "But it's quiet now. Maybe they've fallen asleep."
Martha nodded, agreeing. "Clark looked so exhausted…"
At that moment, there was a sound from behind the door to Clark's room, just a couple of words - primal, deep, guttural, and very male. "…God, Lois…"
They stopped in their tracks. Martha's eyes grew wide, and she covered her mouth to keep from laughing. Jonathan's eyes danced as he leaned down to whisper in her ear, "I guess that's better than *screaming* at each other all night."
"You're terrible, Jonathan Kent," she laughed, slapping his arm lightly, as they opened the door of their room and closed it behind them.