By Piper (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Summary: The moment Lois has been dreading — when her son realizes he has more sets of grandparents than all his other friends do — finally arrives, but her husband handles the explanations well.
Three of these characters are mine. The rest are not. And before you ask, there will not be the *obvious* sequel. I do not torture my characters…much. I am a simple teller of tales. Please let me know what you think of this.
This was Lois' favorite time of the day. She sat back in her rocker on the porch, one of a pair that were housewarming gifts from Martha and Jonathan. Dinner was over, dishes were done. A bath had removed the little boy smells of summer — dirt and dogs and grass — from Jake, leaving only the sweet familiar baby fragrance he still carried, even at the advanced age of 6 years old. She could hear him singing to himself as he picked up the blocks left on the floor in the den. Her husband was in his study, writing up his notes from the day's work. The day was winding down — the sun had set a half an hour ago, leaving a sprinkling of stars hung in the purple Kansas sky.
Lois loved this house. When they had made the decision to move permanently to Smallville, they had bought this piece of land from her in-laws to build their dream house; large, airy rooms, nine-foot ceilings, a huge study that held both of their desks and computers, a big country kitchen, a wonderful porch that ran the length of the house, and lots of room for their growing family.
The screen door creaked on its hinges as her husband stepped out onto the porch to join her. He sat down in the other chair and took her outstretched hand, lightly rubbing the back of her hand with his thumb. They sat in companionable silence in their nightly ritual.
After a moment, the door creaked again as Jake came out to join them.
"All the blocks picked up, baby?" asked Lois.
"Yup," he replied, as he climbed up into his dad's lap, and leaned his head against the broad chest.
Lois recognized that look. It was the 'I've got a really big question' look.
Jake furrowed his brow in a unconscious imitation of his father before he began.
"Daddy, how come I have three grandmothers? Mike only has two and he says that's all you're 'sposed to have…" He began counting on his fingers. "Nana Martha, Grandma Annie, and Grandmother Ellen."
Lois stopped rocking and glanced nervously over at her husband. The Question. She had really hoped to put it off a little longer. She was afraid that, whatever they told him, it would only lead to more questions that she wasn't prepared to answer right now…
She closed her eyes, leaning back in the chair, as the memories washed over her…
After Superman had left for New Krypton, Lois had taken a leave of absence, if only to avoid the sad, understanding gazes of her friends and co-workers, who assumed that, after a falling-out, Clark had left her for parts unknown. Little did they know just how close to the truth that was. Lois found herself spending more and more time with Martha and Jonathan in Smallville. She slept in Clark's bed, and wrapped herself in his memories. She even started wearing the old shirts she found in his dresser because they still retained a little of his scent. She tried to stay positive, and even cheerful around his parents, but each night the tears would come.
One Sunday afternoon, about 6 weeks after Clark had left, Lois was in the kitchen with Martha, who was determined to make a cook out of Lois. The early results had been nothing short of disastrous, but stoic Jonathan had choked them down, and even asked for more. Lately, though, Lois had begun to develop a *feel* for cooking, even daring to change an ingredient here or there in some of Martha's tried-and-true recipes, with surprisingly good results.
She was chopping nuts to add to brownies when a wave of dizziness washed over her. Leaning against the countertop, she managed to put down the knife, before she collapsed in a heap on the yellow tile floor.
"Lois!" yelped Martha, then calling for Jonathan, she fell to her knees beside the unconscious girl.
Jonathan ran in from the porch. "Lois…what happened to her?
"Get me a damp cloth," Martha directed her husband, briskly. "I think she's just fainted. I'll take care of her, you go call Annie."
Their neighbor, Annie Irig, was a pediatrician with a small practice in town. She and her husband, Wayne, had owned the farm next to the Kents for more than thirty years. Their son, Dale, had been Clark's best friend all through school. The boys spent so much time together that, some of the older folks in town had trouble remembering which was the Kent boy and which was the Irig boy. Dale had gone to medical school and had a practice of his own in Wichita.
From some of the things that Wayne had let slip to Jonathan, there was little doubt that he was aware of Clark's "special gifts", though in typical Kansas closed-mouth style, it was never discussed. But when Superman had left for New Krypton, Annie had come to see Martha. Evidently, she, too, had known about Clark.
It was only a few minutes before they heard the sound of Wayne's pick-up pulling up in front of the house. By now, Lois had begun to stir, and feel very embarrassed about all the fuss. It was just a little dizzy spell, she'd been having those lately, probably from stress…But Martha insisted that she lie down, and that Annie look her over, just to be sure.
Lois had met Annie a couple of times in town, and was always struck by her — grace was the only word. In her mid-sixties, Annie was tall and slender, with long silvery hair, now pulled into a braid down her back. As usual, she wore jeans and a work shirt, and a heavy silver-and-turquoise necklace and earrings, and carried an old leather bag with the tools of her trade. Whenever she entered a room, a blanket of calm and serenity seemed to fall lightly over everyone there. Today was no different.
Martha shooed Jonathan and Wayne out of the room as Annie began a cursory examination of Lois. Temp and blood pressure, normal, heart rate, strong and normal, lungs clear…
Lois was beginning to feel a little foolish. "See, I told you. I'm *fine*."
"Well, you certainly appear to be." said Annie, taking the stethoscope from around her neck. "But you say you've been having these dizzy spells for a little while? How's your appetite been?"
"Pretty good," said Lois, but Martha caught her eye, and shook her head. "Okay, I just haven't been very hungry lately."
Lois grimaced. "A little."
"What about your cycle, Lois? When was your last period?"
Martha's eyes widened at the implication of the question, and she raised her hand to cover her mouth.
Lois furrowed her brow, thinking. "Let's see…it was…" She looked up at the two older women. "Oh my God…it was in the middle of May…" It was now mid-July. With all that had happened, she just hadn't noticed the passage of time, or missed the little red x's on her calendar. But…could she really be pregnant? "It was just that one time…" she said softly, almost to herself.
Annie grinned at her. "That's all it takes, Sweetheart."
Martha sat down on the bed and took her hands. "Are you all right, Honey?"
Lois seemed a little stunned. "A baby…" Her eyes filled with tears. "Clark's baby…oh, Martha…"and then the tears came in earnest. Martha wrapped her arms around Lois, rocking her, as a tear spilled over and slipped down her own cheek.
Annie was all business. "Give me your arm, Lois," she said, briskly. "I want to get a blood sample, then I'll need you to give me a urine sample, as well."
Lois sat back, sniffling a little, and wiped her eyes, before extending her arm. She flinched as Annie inserted a needle, then looked away from the rapidly filling specimen tube. "I hate blood tests."
The doctor efficiently capped the tube, removed the needle, and put a band-aid on Lois' arm. "I'll drive into Wichita this evening to get these to the lab first thing in the morning." Then she pulled the desk chair around to face Lois and sat down, leaning forward, and took Lois' hands in her own. "Lois, this is a very special baby. We don't know very much about Clark's internal make-up and I want to make sure that we take good care of the baby…and you. I'm going to get a pregnancy test run, just to confirm what I'm pretty sure of already. Then, I want to get you examined by another doctor. I'd like to get Dale to take a look at you. As a pediatrician, I don't get too many pregnant patients, but Dale's a GP — he sees them all the time…" She sat back. "And…he knows about Clark, too. I think we should keep this — in the family, so to speak…"
" Well, I'll tell you, Jake. It's an interesting story. You know that Grandma Annie is my mother, and Grandmother Ellen is mommy's mother. Well, Nana and Pop have a son, too. His name is Clark."
"I saw his picture in Nana's bedroom."
"That's right. When I was a little boy Clark was my best friend."
"Like Mike's my best friend."
"Just like that. Clark and I did a lot of the same stuff you and Mike do. We rode our bikes, went fishing, climbed trees — we even had a tree house. Anyway, all through school, Clark was my best friend. We were almost like brothers, we were so close. After high school, though, we went to different colleges, then I went on to medical school."
"So you could be a doctor like Grandma."
"Right. Clark traveled around a lot, then he went to Metropolis to work on a newspaper. We didn't get to see each other very much, but we were still friends."
"Did you know Mommy then?"
"No, Jake, I didn't meet Mommy till much later. But Clark met your mom then. They were working at the same newspaper. In fact, their boss let them be partners. They got to be really good friends. Then Clark fell in love with your mom."
"Did you love Clark, Mommy?" asked Jake, seriously.
Lois spoke for the first time. "Yes, baby, I did," she said softly.
"But now you love Daddy, right?" he asked, a little anxiously.
Lois smiled warmly over his head at her husband. "Yes, sweetheart, very much."
Dale smiled back at her and continued his story. "You know, Jake, Clark was a very special man. He was always helping people, and everyone looked up to him and liked him very much.
Then one day, some people came from a faraway place to ask for Clark's help. A bad man was trying to take over their city and they wanted his help to fight him.
Clark didn't know what to do. He knew that the people here counted on him, and he knew that, if he went to the faraway place, he might never be able to come back. He might never see any of the people he loved ever again."
"Like Mommy, or Nana or Pop, or anyone he knew here. But there were so many people in the faraway place that might die if he didn't go. So finally, he decided to help them."
Jake lifted his head from Dale's chest and looked over at Lois.
"Were you sad when he left, Mommy?"
"Yes, Jake, I was very sad. I didn't want him to go, but I knew how important it was."
"Listen, sport," said Dale, switching gears suddenly. "Do you remember what we talked about last Saturday morning, at breakfast?"
"That's right, at McDonalds. About how babies grow inside their mother's tummy, and how daddies put them there?" Lois' expanding waistline had warranted a little father-son talk at breakfast while Mom slept late.
"Mommy has a baby in her tummy. It's a sister baby."
"That's right. Well, Clark loved Mommy so much that, the night before he left, he put a baby in her tummy for her to love. And do you know who that baby was?"
The little boy grinned. "Me?"
Dale grinned back at him. "You!"
"Is that when you met Mommy, Daddy?"
"No, I met your Mommy a little later, a few months before you were born. And you know what?" He leaned down and whispered conspiratorially, "I loved her the first time I saw her." He sat back in the rocker, and over the child's head, caught his wife's eye and winked at her. "I wanted to marry her and us be a family right away. But it took a while to convince her. You were almost two when she finally said yes…"
Lois had missed Clark terribly. But the terrible pain that had been a constant companion had been replaced by a bittersweet sadness that surfaced once in a while.
After only a few weeks back at the Planet, Lois had known that she couldn't raise Jake in Metropolis. After the quiet and relative safety of a small town, she was shocked at the noise, violence, and danger of life in one of the largest cities in America. There had been a time when she couldn't imagine living anywhere else; the noise, violence, and danger had lent an excitement and vibrance to city life.
Before she'd left Smallville, Arliss Evans, the owner of the town paper there, the Gazette, had approached her about taking over for the retiring editor. She had thanked him graciously, but declined. But now, after three weeks of leaving six month old Jake with a baby-sitter, after twelve hour days of dealing with the dregs of humanity down in Suicide Row, enough was enough. She called Arliss to see if the offer was still on the table. It was. Then she called Perry White and invited him to come over for dinner.
Arliss was thrilled. Even after Lois insisted that they would have to go to daily publication. After all, how many small town papers had an editor with a weekly column in the Metropolis Daily Planet.
Lois and Jake moved back to Smallville, and in, temporarily Lois insisted, with the Kents. Wayne and Annie Irig dropped in often, sometimes staying for dinner, and sometimes just to say hello. And whenever he was in town, Dale came with them. And more and more, he came alone.
Lois felt very comfortable with Dale's friendship. It was nice to spend time with someone her own age, someone who had known and loved Clark. As she joked with Martha, "Why shouldn't I feel comfortable with Dale. He's certainly seen me at my worst." Dale had examined Lois several times before Jake was born, then delivered the baby at the Kent's house during a sudden spring storm, when the washed-out roads prevented a trip to the hospital.
After Dale moved to Smallville to go into practice with Annie, he became a fixture at the Kent household. It tickled Lois to see Jake toddle over to him, arms outstretched to be picked up. When her feelings for Dale had begun to change, she didn't know. But one evening she realized, to her surprise, that she hadn't thought about Clark all day.
Martha had recognized the change long before she had. "Lois, you know Clark would be the first one to tell you to go on with your life. He would never want to see you pass up a chance for happiness. You're still a young woman. I know you love Clark, and probably always will. But Dale loves you, and, no matter how much you try to deny it to yourself, you're falling in love with him. And you have a child now, a child who needs a father…"
"*Clark's child*," she had interrupted, sharply. "Don't you think Clark deserves to have his family waiting for him when he comes back?"
But Lois," said Martha, softly, "What if he never comes back?"
"And now we're a family," said Jake. He tilted his head and looked up at Dale. "But then, are you my daddy, or is Clark my daddy?"
"Well, let's think about this for a minute. Who tucks you in at night and reads you a story?"
The child grinned. "You do, Daddy."
"And who takes you to McDonalds for breakfast while *somebody* else sleeps late?"
Jake giggled. "You, Daddy"
Dale wrapped his arms around the boy in his lap. "And who loves you and Mommy more than anything else in the world?"
The smile on Jake's face was even broader than before. "You, Daddy."
"Then I guess that makes me your Dad, doesn't it?"
After a brief bout of tickling and horseplay, Dale stood up and said, "Okay, Sport, time for bed. Kiss Mommy goodnight."
Jake ran over and threw his arms around Lois' neck.
"Goodnight, Mommy. I love you."
"I love you, too, Sweetheart. Don't forget to brush your teeth."
Jake stepped back, hands on his hips, his head tilted to the side, in a perfect imitation of Dale. "Mommy, you don't always have to tell me to brush my teeth. I'm six years old now, I won't forget 'portant stuff like that."
Lois leaned against the porch railing, gazing out into the night sky. At one specific part of the sky. At one particular star. She heard the front door open and close behind her, then felt her husband come up behind her and slip his arms around her waist, lightly massaging her stomach. He nuzzled her neck just beneath her ear and she tilted her head a little to the side to allow him more leeway to plant soft kisses there. His warm breath in her ear sent delicious shivers down her spine.
"Thinking about Clark?"
Dale grinned and tightened his hold on her. Then he lifted his head and followed her gaze out to just above the horizon. "Which one his star?"
Lois pointed towards one small point of light in a group of five stars. If she could find that particular constellation, she could find the star that New Krypton orbited. "Right there…that third one from the right."
Dale nodded. "I see it."
Lois leaned back against his chest, settling into his embrace, and ran her hands up and down his arms.
"Dale…does it bother you that I still think about Clark sometimes?"
He kissed the top of her head, lightly. "Not at all. I think about him everyday."
Lois turned in his arms to face him, and slipped her arms around his waist. "You do?" she said, smiling wistfully.
"Sure…every time I look at my son, I'm grateful to Clark all over again. Whether he knows about him or not, I kind of feel like he's…entrusted him to me."
Her eyes were shining with love and unshed tears. "I love you, you know that, Dr. Irig?"
He grinned. "Right back atcha, Mrs. Irig."
She turned around to lean back against his chest once again, gazing out across the field at the lights of the Kent farm. Their property, along with her in-laws farm, shared a fence line with Jonathan and Martha's place.
Dale resumed his attention to the sensitive spot just under Lois' ear, alternating gentle kisses with tiny nips at her earlobe. She closed her eyes and moaned softly, rolling her head to the side.
"My goodness, Doctor, are you this unprofessional with all your patients?"
"Oh, absolutely. Just wait till you see my bedside manner…"
She grinned up at him. They turned to head back inside, his arm draped lightly over her shoulder.
"By the way," said Lois, as Dale opened the screen door for her, "Thanks for explaining things to Jake. I wasn't sure how I was going to do it, what to say, but you did a beautiful job of it."
Dale smiled crookedly. "This was the easy part. I'll let you field the explanations when he figures out that he can fly…"