By C. Leuch <email@example.com>
Submitted June 2000
Summary: As Lois and Clark's fifteen-year-old son Jon works his way through a shocking discovery about himself and his parents, he learns what it really means for a father to be a hero to his son.
This is my first fanfic. Actually, it's my first piece of fiction to see the light of day. There is a little bit of action in it, but mostly it's a piece about the journey a boy takes in finding out about himself and his father. I know I didn't do many of the characters justice, but hey, that's why you make sequels. Feel free to e-mail me with comments.
*Stars* around words denote thoughts.
Notes on my continuity: I am assuming everything in the show happens to Lois and Clark, up to the end of the second season. That's where my timeline splits off.
The usual disclaimers apply.
This story is part of the author’s “Dawn of Discovery” series, which includes “The Dawn of Discovery,” “How I Spent My Summer Vacation,” “Professional Loyalties,” “Personal Loyalties,” “It Runs in the Family,” “I'll Be You For Christmas,” “Meet Sam Wayne,” and “Gotham Nights.”
Ridley Davenport slammed the phone back into its holder and slumped dejectedly into his sofa. *Agents! They are certainly the root of all evil!*
His last novel had earned far less money than was anticipated, and Ridley had just been informed, in a very businesslike manner, that the next one had better be something special or he might be looking for a new publisher. Never mind the fact that the four novels that came before his latest attempt were unqualified successes. Publishers seemed to have a very short memory.
He sighed as he picked up the day's newspaper off the coffee table. The headline on the Daily Planet read, "Superman Apprehends Serial Killer, Foils Assassin's Latest Attempt." Written by Lois Lane and Clark Kent, of course. Count on the Planet to get the big headline on the Man of Steel.
Superman, now there was an interesting guy, Ridley thought. Somebody special. In the eighteen years since Superman first came onto the scene in Metropolis, he had been the subject of countless unsuccessful attempts to figure who he really was — what was his real personality? Did he have a "secret identity"? Where does he go when he's not saving people? Fictional stories had also popped up, starting with comic books and progressing into the occasional novel. Superman had allowed his name and likeness to be used so long as the profits went to charity, and, of course, Superman had to approve the story.
It occurred to Ridley that most of these fictional stories had been kiddie stuff or adventure stories — nothing dealing with the man himself. Even the novels were meant for teenagers who were more interested in the crime fighting stories than the other, more "adult" issues involved in the life of the Man of Steel. There might be a market in a Superman romance novel for all those ladies who seem to swoon over him, or a "real life of Superman" novel for all those interested in exposing who Superman really is. Inspiration began to strike the gloomy author.
Ridley looked at the headline again. Written by Lois Lane and Clark Kent, celebrated friends of Superman and the couple who always seemed to get exclusives on the man. Or they were. It seemed about the time of their marriage, they began to disassociate themselves with the superhero. Ridley was a sophomore in college when Superman saved the Space Station Prometheus project and announced his arrival in Metropolis. Lois Lane got that story, as well as the first, and only, exclusive interview with Superman. Ridley seemed to recall that Lois Lane and Superman were considered a bit of an item for a couple years. At the very least, it was public knowledge that the reporter was very infatuated with the young hero. Then Lane started going out with Clark Kent, another reporter at the Planet. It was rumored that if you wanted to get a hold of Superman, aside from throwing yourself off a building, all you had to do was contact Kent and he could somehow get in touch with the hero. A TV show even suggested, about a year and a half after Superman first appeared, that Kent WAS Superman. This was quickly disproved, but the reporter who broke that story, a Diana Stride, to this day sticks by this claim.
So here you had Lois Lane, who was in love with Superman, and Clark Kent, who some say is Superman, married, even now. What if Kent really was Superman? Ridley didn't really think that Kent was Superman; after all, the two had appeared together at a press conference after the Diana Stride expose. BUT it sure made a good story. Of course, he couldn't really use Lane and Kent as characters, per se, because he didn't want to get sued. But it wouldn't be too hard to make up two fictional reporters at a Metropolis newspaper.
Ridley smiled as he went to turn on his computer. This definitely had the possibility of being something special all right.
Six months later
Superman landed in front of the strip mall at the edge of New Troy after finishing his nightly patrol. No neon signs announced who the third tenant from the end was, a departure from the brightly lit businesses that surrounded it. Simple lettering on the door let the world know that this was the Superman Foundation. The hero entered through this door, as he did once every week. The interior had a reception counter and four other desks scattered around the rather small office, with framed photographs of Superman on the walls. Superman figurines and toys dotted the shelf that went around the entire office about 2 feet from the ceiling.
Due to the late hour, only Leslie, the night receptionist, remained on the job. She smiled as she heard the door open. The hero was nothing if not predicable, she thought as she reached for the stack of papers in a large box in the corner of the desk. Every Wednesday night, 10 PM exactly, Superman came into the Foundation to review the stack of proposals on use of his image. Some of these proposals were for new toys, some were for t-shirts, and some were for books, just to name a few. Depending on the mood he was in, or on other things that Leslie wasn't aware of, Superman would either look through the proposals (using his super speed, of course) at the office, or he would take them somewhere else and then bring them back the next day.
Leslie and Superman chatted for a couple of minutes. Obviously it wasn't a very busy night out there. How are the kids, he would ask. Is Bobby doing well in little league? Is the husband's job going OK? Leslie handed him the stack of papers and watched him flip through them as they finished their conversation.
All of a sudden the mood seemed to change and a frown came over Superman's face. He returned all the proposals to the secretary, complete with his initials of approval, except one. Leslie noticed that he held on to the novel they received yesterday — "The Life of a Super Man" by Ridley Davenport. There had been a lot of conversation around the office about that one. Leslie had only skimmed through it herself, but she had to admit that the concept was fascinating — Superman was actually a reporter, he was married and had a life. She thought it was a little preposterous, but some in the office pointed out that nobody really knew anything about the real life of Superman. The reporter that the Man of Steel was supposed to be was a thinly veiled version of the Daily Planet's Clark Kent, husband of Lois Lane, both known friends of Superman.
Leslie took the stack of approved proposals and placed them in a different box on her desk. Superman clutched at the novel and let her know that it was going to be a few days until he brought this one back to the office. Leslie thought that he was acting really funny — too quiet, almost anxious. He left rather abruptly, not even saying goodbye. Leslie just shook her head and went back to work — after all, even superheroes were allowed to be moody.
Superman circled around the suburban Metropolis neighborhood in the darkness and landed in the large yard of an average, middle class property. The stately maple trees hid his descent from the neighbors, as it did every other night. It was one of the main things that had attracted him to the house in the first place. It was a nice place, obviously very well lived in. A modest tree house perched midway up in one of the trees signaled that children were present. A large sign on the tree house exterior labeled it as the "fortress of solitude." A sandbox, complete with buckets and shovels, was nested into the corner of the property. The house itself was a nice two story, tan in color, and in immaculate condition. Superman was very proud of the condition that the house was kept in — when he had first found it, it had been unlived in for over a year and was beginning to fall into a state of disrepair. Restoring the interior to a livable state had taken no time flat — super powers did come in handy sometimes. The exterior had to be restored at regular speed, just so that the neighbors didn't get suspicious of anything. Of course, all this was done fourteen years ago — it hardly seemed like so long ago.
A light burning in the window of the master bedroom announced that his wife had waited up for him. Good. He needed to talk to her. Superman spun into his normal clothes upon landing in the yard and strode toward the house. He uttered a small curse as he nearly fell over what could only be another one of his youngest son's failed science experiments. Thirteen year old Samuel Clark Kent, or CJ ("Clark Junior." Lois was never very fond of naming one of her sons after her father - Clark had said it would only be fair, since their eldest was named after his father. Lois had insisted on calling him Clark — she liked that name better anyway) had long since graduated from the world of the baking soda submarines and science fair volcanoes, and was currently constructing a crystal radio. The prototype was now in pieces beneath the foot of Clark Kent. Clark suspected it had been in pieces even before meeting the underside of his shoe, but he made a mental note as picked up the pieces to apologize to his son profusely the next day. CJ was a very bright kid - at thirteen, he was already taking high school math classes. He was also a gifted athlete — he started on the eighth grade football team at his junior high. Most of all, the boy loved his parents dearly, and trusted them completely, and for a good reason. Lois and Clark had tried to instill in their three kids a sense of honesty and morality. Lois took the kids to the lesser parts of Metropolis from time to time, just to show them how bad other people had it. They would have family discussions on right and wrong if Lois and Clark thought there was a current event that would make a good case study. Most of all, they two tried to be completely honest and had encouraged their children to do the same. Except for one thing.
The kids still didn't know that their father was the city's famous super hero. It was something that Lois had been a little uptight about the last few years, but Clark assured her that he would let them in on it when the time was right. Lois had been a little skeptical about his ability to determine exactly when that right time would be, reminding him for the umpteenth time that he hadn't found the right time to tell HER about the secret. He had to admit she had a point, but they were both a little older and wiser now. His children kept getting older, too. Jonathan, their oldest, just turned fifteen and was in high school now. Clark was planning on telling Jon about Superman this weekend sometime. He had noticed that the boy was beginning to beef up a little of late as he hit puberty. He had never been the athlete like his little brother - Jon would play soccer or baseball from time to time, but he chose the band over the football team. In any case, if Clark was right, his son should be developing some powers pretty soon, and would undoubtedly be pretty confused about what was going on. None of the kids had exhibited any super powers yet, even though the boys were older than Clark was when he had first developed his. They had all developed a degree of invulnerability which increased as they had gotten older, but nothing more. Clark figured the delay was due to genetics — they were only HALF Kryptonian, after all. Doctor Klein had mentioned years ago the possibility that none of the children would have powers. They could also have weaker powers than their father, or they might have some powers and not others. They would find out eventually, until then they were just normal American kids with a super father, even if they didn't know it yet.
Clark deposited the remains of the radio on CJ's workbench in the garage and proceeded to enter the house. The downstairs was dark, except for the dull light emitted by the various electronic displays — the microwave, the VCR, the stereo. Clark walked softly, yet swiftly up the stairs and headed toward his bedroom. On the way, he pulled down his glasses and checked on his sleeping children. Laura, his youngest at eight years of age, lay peacefully in the middle of her bed, clutching a beat-up teddy bear. Other stuffed animals lay haphazardly around her in the bed, a few had tumbled to the floor. The boys were sprawled out on the beds in their respective rooms. Nothing seemed to be amiss there. Clark proceeded to enter his own room, where his wife sat in their bed, reading a book.
Lois smiled and placed her book on the nightstand as her husband entered the room. He smiled at her, too, bent over the bed, and gave her a deep kiss. Sixteen years of marriage and that kiss had never lost any of that fire. Clark pulled away and ran his hand through her long, dark hair before either of them spoke.
"How was everything around here tonight? Anything happen?" Clark asked. It was a standard question — nothing usually happened around the house when he was gone. When the kids had been little, he would often wait until all the kids had been put to bed before going out, facing the wrath of Lois if he left any earlier. Anymore, the boys would retreat to their room to study or would go out with their friends in the evening. Clark would slip away at different times on different nights for patrol, pulling one of the many excuses out of the file to account for his absence to the kids. Lois was also very good at running interference with them. Clark felt guilty about leaving them for very long — he didn't want to become the absentee father. But some things just couldn't be helped.
"No, just the same. Laura and CJ and myself played a little Monopoly after you left. That's about it. How about you? Anything interesting happen?"
Clark's face clouded over a little bit. He reached for the manuscript that he had tucked under his arm and held it out in front of him. "The city was pretty quiet, but I found something you might want to see during my weekly stop at the Foundation." Clark sat down on the bed next to Lois and handed her the novel. She gave him a bit of a questioning look and read the title aloud.
"'The Life of A Super Man.' By Ridley Davenport. I've heard of him — he has some good stuff." Lois read the first few words of the novel and went pale. She looked up at Clark nervously. "Oh, Clark! How does he…? What the heck is this?"
"It's a novel. Fiction. I've read it, and I want you to read it too. I don't know how he knows, but this is our life. It's not overly accurate, but it's close enough." Clark looked somewhat forlornly at the manuscript, watching Lois' eyes scan the remainder of the first page. If this book got published, it would certainly expose them.
"I'll finish this later, Clark." Lois said as she reached the bottom of the page. "One I thing I know is that you can't let them publish this!"
"I don't intend to, Lois," Clark said softly. He had it in his power to stop publication, and stop it he would. There was a bigger issue to consider, however. He looked down at his hands as he spoke. "The main reason I brought this here is that I want us to investigate this guy, Ridley Davenport. We need to find out what exactly he knows and how. We can't let any of this information become public."
Lois looked past her husband as she thought. Yes, this needed to be addressed. But it had to be handled very carefully. She focused back in on Clark, who was still looking down. "I agree. But do you think that Lane and Kent should be investigating this? And on work time? We're not even supposed to know about this. It would be too suspicious."
Clark nodded. He hadn't done much thinking about what the nature of their investigation would be, he just knew it had to be done. He could probably send some of the foundation employees out to gather some information — it was common enough for them. They usually did their homework on companies that wanted to sell his image. This was too personal for that, however — Clark wanted to handle it himself. A thought occurred to him suddenly. He snapped his head up and looked at Lois again. "I have a thought. We could say we're doing a piece on him - a biography. I can get the research together myself after hours — you know me, it won't take any time at all."
Lois smiled and reached up to stroke his cheek. "Sure. That sounds good. We can start this weekend. I should be done reading by then. But for now…" She leaned over to kiss him again. Her hands found his shirt, and she began to unbutton it. Sensing what was to come, Clark pulled away. He retrieved the manuscript from Lois and placed it on the desk. Smiling, he finished the job on the shirt himself. Lois took up a sultry position on the bed, causing Clark's heart to skip a beat. His love for his wife had not diminished one iota, and he always enjoyed coming home at night, knowing Lois was waiting for him. He turned off the light as he crawled into bed with his wife for a night of passion.
From the Diary of Jonathan Lane Kent:
It happened again today, but not the same way as before. In the past I had always just figured I was daydreaming — the teacher would be droning on about something boring at the front of the room and I would zone. I'd stare straight ahead and I could swear I could see what was going on in the next room. I would see kids like me — some bored, some writing notes, some making faces. I don't know why I would want to daydream about something like that, but in any case, if I blinked, it all went away. Just a dream.
Today, though, it was different. I was doing homework and stopped for a while to think. I was looking at the wall, spacing off, and it was like I could see outside. A bird flew onto the tree out front, the neighbor girl rode by the front of the house on her tricycle, and I could HEAR the wheels squeaking. Come to think of it, I could hear a lot of things — the leaves rustling in the tree, the next door neighbor snoring though her afternoon nap, and I could hear my mother singing to the radio. It took a second to see her car drive up the street. I could hear the crunching sound of the tires as she pulled into the driveway. She had groceries in the back seat, and the more I thought about it, I could see what was in the grocery bags, too. I blinked, but this time the image did not go away. In the bags were cereal and fruits and salad stuff, as well as the junk food that Dad likes so much and a few triple-fudge crunch bars for Mom.
I realized that I could hear footsteps coming down the hall toward my room. The door was open and the steps stopped right outside. I kinda wished they would just go away, but they didn't. After a few seconds, I turned and saw my dorky little brother standing there looking at me. He wanted to know what was so fascinating about a stupid wall and he wanted to borrow my roller blades. I ended up having to throw something at him to get him to leave me alone. Anyways, as soon as my attention was focused on him, the outside images went away. I wasn't seeing through the wall, I was just daydreaming again.
I decided to go downstairs to say hi to Mom. She was still humming the song that I had "heard" her singing to earlier. I've never heard the song before in my life — Mom has weird taste in music. The groceries were exactly the same as I "saw," too. It all seems like too much coincidence to be a dream. The whole thing seemed too weird, so here I am, telling the old diary. I wonder if I'm going mental or psychic or something. I'm not on drugs, so don't even think that! You know, they say Superman can see through walls and hear stuff from far away, but how would that relate to me? I've never even met the guy, although he's supposed to be a good friend of Mom and Dad's. I suppose I could talk to someone about it. Or not. We'll see.
Well diary, I'll leave you alone, at least until the next time I think I'm looking through walls.
Clark knocked on the door to his son Jon's bedroom, which was sitting about halfway open. Jon was sitting as his desk, placing a small book into one of the drawers. He smiled at his father and invited him in.
"What's up?" Jon asked. His father would come up here frequently, just to make sure he was okay.
"Oh, not much. I just wanted to ask you something." Clark sat down on the edge of Jon's bed, and Jon turned in his chair to face him. He couldn't imagine what it was that his dad would need to ask him about. Clark could see the questioning look on his son's face.
"Well, I was wondering if you wanted to go with me on my trip upstate this Sunday. I need to go up there to do some interviews for a story that I'm working on, and I was thinking you might want to tag along. You can get a glimpse into the world of journalism and we can have a little father-son outing."
*A glimpse into the world of journalism?* Jon had to admit, he had more than a passing interest in the field, but this offer caught him a little off guard. He really didn't know what to think.
"So, it'll be just you and me?" he asked.
"Yup, just us." It was planned that way, Clark thought. They could be alone and he could discuss with Jon his family heritage. And since they were going upstate, maybe they could stop somewhere along the way, just to see if Jon had developed any powers, and to work on them if he did. The story wasn't just an excuse — it was real. Clark had taken it knowing the opportunity it presented. Plus, he truly wanted to look into the allegations of neglect at the state hospitals upstate. Right now, though, he awaited his son's answer. He really didn't think that Jon would have any objections.
Jon was mentally reviewing his calendar. He had a band concert next week, and a paper due on Tuesday, but besides that he really didn't have anything better to do. And he never got much of a chance to see his dad at work. Why not? His mind was quick to remind him of his problem with the disappearing walls, but he figured a trip out of town might be just the thing to make his mental problems, or whatever it was, go away.
Clark smiled wide. "Great. I'm looking forward to this. We should have a good time." They never got to hang out much anymore. Jon was growing up so fast — in no time he would be out of the house, off at college. Best to treasure the time they had. "Say, you want to go with the rest of us now? I thought that we might go out and get some ice cream."
Jon thought that sounded like a great idea. He loved all forms of foods that were bad for you. And he ate them whenever he could. He never seemed to gain an ounce, though. His best friend's mom had accused him of having a hollow leg — he thought that was pretty funny. Jon knew his dad was the same way — Dad really liked to go out for ice cream, even though Mom liked to accuse him of trying to fatten her up. She always had a generous helping of double chocolate ice cream, despite her complaints.
Jon voiced his approval to the plan. In the back of his mind, he wondered if there was something more to the trip this weekend, but he really couldn't think of any reason why there would be. He filed these thoughts away and left the room with his father. He had to admit, he was kind of looking forward to their little trip.
Jon couldn't sleep. The room was dark and the clock on his chest of drawers read 12:15 AM. Usually, he fell right to sleep when his head hit the pillow, but something strange was happening to him, and the darkness brought the need to figure out what it was. Was he going crazy? Was he the product of a tryst between his mom and Superman (they HAD kind of almost been a thing when the big guy first showed up)? At least, part of him wanted to find out — the other part just wanted to fall asleep. After staring at the ceiling for a little while, watching the shadows from the tree outside dance around, he rolled over onto his side and closed his eyes. He was almost asleep when he heard what sounded like a very strong gust of wind and a thud. He could clearly hear his mom and dad start to talk in the next room. In fact, he could hear every word they were saying, as if they were having the conversation right in front of him. *I don't remember Dad coming up to bed*, he thought groggily, and opened his eyes. His father had taken off after the ice cream excursion, saying that he needed to run an errand. It was after eight PM by that time, and Jon couldn't imagine what errand would need to be done at that time of night, but dad was ALWAYS running errands at night. And he never seemed to come back with anything, either.
Jon rolled over and faced the wall that his room shared with his parents'. The wall dissolved in front of him, and there stood Superman.
Jon's eyes popped open and any trace of sleepiness went away in an instant. *What the…?* his mind thought furiously. OK, so maybe it wasn't his dad he'd heard over there after all — though it had sure sounded like it. A thousand thoughts started to flood through his head — did Superman come here often? How come he had never known about it before? And what the heck was he doing here anyway? Holy cow, maybe Mom WAS having an affair with the guy. The blood started pumping loudly through Jon's ears, and he had to will himself to calm down so he could hear what they were saying again. Superman looked a little upset, his mom looked worried. As he watched, his mom went over to the edge of bed, hanging her feet over the side.
"Have a bad night out there?" she asked him. The concern in her voice was evident.
Superman sighed. "Yeah. There was a pile-up on the beltway. A few people died on impact — I couldn't get there in time to save them." Superman sat down on the chest at the end of the bed and began to unlace his boots.
"Oh god, I'm sorry." Lois got up off the bed and went to sit next to the Man of Steel. She laid a hand affectionately on his back and began to rub it in large circular motions. *Affectionate rubbing. This isn't good.*
"Well, I did manage to put out the fire that started. Flew a few people to the hospital." One boot came off, then the other. Lois picked them up and walked toward the closet. Superman reached behind his cape and Jon could hear a zipper. The Man of Steel slid his blue spandex suit off his arms and down his chest, the cape coming off at the same time. Standing up, he undid the buckle around his waist and slid the suit the rest of the way off. There stood Superman, dressed only in white briefs and socks. Lois entered her big walk in closet, went to the back, and pulled on something in the wall. The false back wall slid aside, revealing a secret compartment, one that contained probably half a dozen Superman suits and a couple of pairs of boots. Jon remembered playing hide and seek with his cousins as a kid and using this very closet as a hiding place. He didn't know why he had never noticed the secret compartment before, especially since he had developed his mysterious ability to see through things.
He still couldn't figure out why his mom had a compartment in the closet for Superman. Why was he here? Jon felt a twinge of compassion for his dad. Poor guy. He couldn't EVEN be a match for Superman.
"Well, I'm glad to hear that. Will they be OK?"
The hero picked up his costume and his cape and headed toward the closet. Lois held up her hands in a "catch" position and looked at Superman. He tossed her the outfit and said, "Yeah. I stayed for a little while at the hospital just to be sure. One guy got burned pretty badly, but the doctors thought he should make a pretty thorough recovery." Jon could see a shadow of a smile begin to appear on his mother's lips.
Jon followed Superman as he walked into the bathroom. He could hear the faucet in the sink turning on and saw Superman running his head under it, splashing water on his face. Lois was still hanging up the suit over in the closet. As Superman reached for a towel, Lois shut the compartment and made her way back to the bed, sitting on the edge in a sultry fashion. Superman walked back toward her, his hair looked slightly disheveled. *And oddly familiar* Jon thought. This was the first time that he was really able to get a good look at the man's face. Yes, it was so familiar is was disconcerting.
Superman caught a glimpse of Lois on the bed and smiled.
"Well, sweetheart," she said. *Sweetheart?!* "Maybe I can help you forget about your night." Superman smiled even wider as he took Lois in his arms. They began to kiss furiously as they lay out on the bed, Superman perched over Lois. If this went on a whole lot longer, Jon figured, he would need to go downstairs and get a bowl of popcorn. *Or, you could just mind your own business!* Like that was going to happen. This was BIG.
"Mmmm, Lois," Superman practically moaned.
"Oh, Clark," she sighed and they kissed some more.
"OhmyGOD." Jon's voice was barely above a whisper, but as he said it, Superman looked straight at him, through the wall, and went visibly pale.
*Oh, Clark?!!?* More thoughts quickly rose to the surface of Jon's very confused brain. If one more stupid thought popped in, he figured his head would probably explode. *You mean to tell me that all along, Superman was my DAD!* This would explain why he had never seen Superman before — certainly he couldn't appear before his kids without them knowing automatically who he was. *I guess this means I'm not, in fact, going crazy,* although on second thought, the implications just MIGHT push him over the edge. *So, my dad is from outer space, which means I'm half alien?*
In the next room, Lois could feel Clark stiffen on top of her. She regretfully left the blissful place that she was in and opened her eyes. Clark was staring at the wall *probably through it* and all the color had drained from his face. A fraction of a second later he was scrambling off of her and ran to the dresser to grab a pair of shorts.
"What's going on, Clark?" He had a look on his face that she hadn't seen in a long time — embarrassed, almost scared, but somewhat curious, too.
"We have a problem," he said as he grabbed his glasses off the nightstand and made a beeline for the door.
Lois began to scramble out of bed, too. "Problem? What problem?" She honestly had no clue what was going on.
Clark pointed to his eldest son's room. "Someone's been holding out on us, and now I think he knows. You know, KNOWS." Clark made a little flying gesture with his hand.
Lois's eyes got very big, and for a second Clark could've sworn that they were going to pop right out of her head. He almost laughed, but the task that he knew was coming up stifled any thoughts of merriment. She scrambled to her husband's side and together they went out into the hallway and knocked on Jon's door. When they didn't get any response, they cracked it open and peeked inside.
Jon was sitting upright, in the middle of his bed, staring at his closet with a look of shock on his face. "Jon," Clark said softly. His son just blinked. The super couple entered the room and shut the door softly, mindful of the sleeping children in the two other bedrooms. Lois turned on the light and Clark sat on the edge of the bed. Turning on the light seemed to do the trick, and Jon snapped out of the trance he was previously in and he gaped at his father. Lois kept her post by the door.
Jon noticed the fact that his father *Superman!* had put his glasses on before coming over. He thought that was kind of funny — he was SURE that his father knew what Jon had figured out, and he obviously didn't NEED glasses, after all. It occurred to Jon that he hadn't seen his father out of his glasses before tonight. He remembered going to the public swimming pool as a kid, and if his dad was there, he would be wearing sunglasses and sitting by the edge of the pool, just soaking up the sun. "Come on in the water, daddy, it feels great!" one of the kids would always say, and Clark would invariably give some excuse on why he couldn't go in. "I don't know, I think I just might melt in there" always made his sister giggle. Of course, when they brought out the kiddie pool in the back yard at home, he would jump right in, glasses on, of course. So he didn't want anyone to see him without the glasses and with his hair wet and slicked back. Jon figured that was understandable, from a public standpoint, but he was the man's son after all, and he had a right to know.
Jon's eyes were frozen on Clark's face for a long time, and Clark began to feel a little self-conscious. "Son?" Clark put his hand on the boy's shoulder, causing Jon to jerk out of his latest reverie.
"Dad?" All of a sudden, this boy, well, adolescent of fifteen years old seemed very much to be a frightened child.
Clark flinched a little bit as he saw the fear grow in his son's eyes. He honestly wished Jon would say something. Tell him that he was a big, fat liar. Demand to know why Clark kept this kind of secret. Anything. Obviously, if anything was going to get accomplished, it was up to Clark to initiate the conversation. He glanced over to Lois for reassurance. She gave him a slightly worried, yet at the same time reassuring, nod.
"So, Jon I, uh. I guess you probably have a few questions you want to ask me." Clark arched his eyebrows in a questioning manner as he looked at the boy.
*You're darn right I do,* Jon thought. Why Dad? Why not tell me? Did you think I wouldn't find out? Don't you love me or trust me enough? Fear and anger cycled through Jon's head very quickly, along with a little bit of wonderment.
Clark could see the battle going on inside his son, and Jon audibly sighed before dropping his head and eyes. One word came out of his mouth. "Why?"
"Why?" Clark knew the answer as soon as the word left his mouth.
"Why didn't you tell me, Dad?"
Clark hesitated momentarily before continuing. "Well, that's a long story, and believe me when I tell you that I wanted to tell you. It's mostly been for your protection, and for your brother and sister's protection, too. Plus, well, I was beginning to wonder if you were going to inherit, uh, the family 'talent.'" A ghost of a smile fleeted across Jon's face, but it was gone almost as soon as it appeared. He was obviously still bothered by it.
"Oh yeah, I got the 'talent.' Or some of it, anyway. I was beginning to wonder if I was going crazy or something."
"I know what that's like." Clark smiled, remembering the days back on the farm when his powers began to pop up. That was a scary time — he never knew what was happening to him or what kind of power he would get next. He had DEFINITELY thought he was going crazy for a while. Thank goodness for his mom and dad.
"So, you saw through the wall, I take it."
"Ummyeah." Jon blushed a little. The thought of his mom and dad on the bed didn't bother Jon all that much — they were all over each other on a normal basis. Snuggling on the couch, or in the kitchen while making dinner or on vacation. Sometimes if got downright embarrassing. But snuggling around the house and in bed were two different things entirely. Jon wasn't proud of having looked in on his parents during an intimate moment — they were probably, at this very second, thinking that they had raised him better than that.
Jon realized that his thoughts were drifting, and he quickly shook his head to focus. Why? That had been the question. It's a long story? *Well, all of a sudden I'm not that tired.*
"Dad, I still want to know why YOU didn't tell me. The whole story. And I'm not going anywhere until I hear it!"
The boy's determination was obviously inherited from his mother's side of the family, Clark mused. It was strange to see how personality traits manifested themselves in the kids.
Clark began to relate the story to his son, with very few interjections from his wife. They had first thought out the consequences of letting their children know about Superman when Lois had become pregnant. Keeping Superman secret would mean that Clark would have to stop doing all the "super" things that he did all the time at home- and it was hard. But it was something that had to be done. What if one of the kids, at a young age, had seen their daddy floating, or starting the fire with his vision? It would be the easiest thing in the world for that child, in his or her innocence, to tell their secret to a stranger. And that stranger could tell God knows who else, and their secret would be blown. No, they had to act like everything was normal.
And anyway, Clark didn't know if his children would also be "super." Dr Klein had warned them of the possibility. How would Earth and Kryptonian physiology interact? Lois and Clark had always treated their children as one hundred percent normal, even giving them vaccinations in their childhood. Sure, the kids had been healthier than most and stopped getting the usual cuts and scrapes at around eight years old or so. But they still got the occasional cold, and Jon and CJ had the chicken pox together a few years ago. Jon was beginning to get some of the adolescent acne, too. Dr. Klein kept an eye on the kids and subtly monitored their powers, and so far nothing but the standard invulnerability had showed up. Heck, Clark had most of his powers by the time he was Jon's age, so he was really beginning to wonder.
"I do trust you, Jon, and I love you a lot. I really was going to tell you, you just beat me to the punch. That's what this weekend excursion was supposed to be. Your mom can tell you that I'm not very good at telling people — of all the people out there who know who Superman really is, I've only actually told Dr. Klein. Everybody else figured it out by themselves."
It all made sense to Jon, it really did, but that didn't mean he still wasn't perturbed. It was all too new. He felt like he didn't know his dad anymore, as much as his dad was obviously trying to shown him that he was still "Dad." But he still couldn't reconcile "Dad" with "Superman."
Clark could see the faraway look in his son's eyes as he told his story. Clark had just stopped, and still his son was just sitting there nodding. Lois, who had been oddly quiet throughout the whole ordeal, took her son by the face and spoke softly.
"Jon, honey, are you going to be all right?" It pained Lois to see her son struggle with his emotions so much. She knew what he was going through — finding out had been simultaneously one of the best and one of the worst times in her life. Sometimes she still had trouble believing this gentle and somewhat shy man that was sitting next to her on the bed, the father of her children, was also the man who has faced down asteroids and madmen with unyielding resolve. He faced the full, glaring eye of the public day in and day out unfazed. His voice could turn criminals to mush and cause an end to war, but somehow Lois could still make him melt. It was still so strange, and so wonderful.
It was perhaps one of the great contradictions of Clark's personality, Lois thought, that he could be so brave when faced with any challenge as Superman, but something that required emotional resolve in his personal life would cause him to shy away. Lois remembered how close they came to never even getting together at all — Clark was willing to walk away from their relationship during the whole Scardino affair, rather than fight for what he wanted. All it would have taken was an admission of the truth, who he really was. Lois knew full well that Clark wouldn't run away from his own son rather than tell him the truth. The problem was that it was so much easier to maintain the status quo than to take the initiative and let Jon in on the secret. Lack of honesty creates a lack of trust; she knew this very well. She hoped will all her heart that they hadn't irretrievably lost the trust of their son.
Lois began to stroke her son's hair gently, and she could tell that he was beginning to make a decision.
"I guess. I just need some time, okay? Time to sort this all out." He looked up into his parents faces, and they seemed to understand, They were both nodding.
"Take as long as you need, Jon," Clark spoke softly. "I'll be here whenever you want to talk some more, okay?"
With that, Clark gently patted his son's shoulder and stood up. Lois also stood up, reaching for Clark's hand as she did. The two walked quietly to the door, turned out the light and walked into the hallway. Clark said goodnight as he closed the door.
After his parents left the room, Jon laid down and started absently at the ceiling. 4
Jon sat in his math class, making plans for the afternoon to come. The large bags under his bloodshot eyes alluded to the lack of sleep from the night before, but his mind was sharp and focused on the task at hand: find out everything about his parents. And Superman. EVERYTHING. Do some good old-fashioned research, do some snooping around the house, whatever it took. Then, maybe, he might just go talk to his parents about it. That would definitely be the last thing he did, though.
The day's lesson in class was largely being ignored in favor of this planning session. Jon let a little bit of what the teacher was saying creep into his brain from time to time just in case he got called on. The intricacies of algebra were never that interesting to him, anyway. His pencil was drawing Superman's S-shield almost by itself onto the ledger of his notebook.
He had plenty of time to do some high-powered snooping when he got home from school that night, starting in the bedroom. His brother and sister wouldn't get home until an hour after he did, so they wouldn't be suspicious. Mom and Dad never got home until around suppertime, so he should be safe on that front, too. Tomorrow, a Saturday, he could spend all day in the archives of the public library. Who has Superman fought? What has he done and when? If there was any video, all the better. Jon was supposed to play some basketball with the guys tomorrow, but that could wait. This was important.
So what exactly did he hope to find from all this snooping and research? He was hoping to find what made his dad tick — what motivated him. And who he really was. It had been such a simple thing up until last night. Jon was hoping he could maybe find out a bit about himself in the process. It's not everyone who finds out that they are half alien! To think, someday he might be able to fly! What would that be like? Would it change him? Did it change Dad? He HAD to know.
The bell rang, and even Jon's newly discovered super hearing didn't pick it up, he was so absorbed in his thoughts. He only came to his senses after his friend Joel smacked him on the arm.
"Earth to Kent — time for gym class. I know you're kind of a bookworm, but I can't believe that even you would want sit here in algebra when a good game of flag football awaits."
Jon had to admit that a little football right now would definitely cheer him up. He had almost forgotten that was what they were doing in gym right now. Besides, after gym he was home free. This got him out of his fog. Things were beginning to look up.
It had taken a lot of Jon's willpower not to test for the presence of superspeed on the walk home. He REALLY wanted to get started on his little project. He went up the steps two at a time and threw his backpack unceremoniously into his room en route to his parents' room. He hesitated briefly as he laid his hand on the doorknob. His dad was Superman, after all, and he might catch on to the fact that somebody had been snooping in their room. He had to make sure not to disturb things too much.
He opened the door and entered. Here he was, the parent's room. It sure looked like it always had. He had been in here a lot when he was little — if there was a thunderstorm, he would crawl into bed with Mom and Dad for comfort. He would play hide and seek in there sometimes. But that was all a long time ago. He had to look past the familiar and find things that would be unique to his folks — to Superman. The obvious place to start was the closet, with its secret compartment.
Jon crossed the room and opened the door to the walk-in closet. His dad's many sports coats, pants and neatly starched shirts lined one wall, while his mom's dresses and work clothes lined the other. His eye was drawn toward his dad's tie rack. Jon thought briefly that nobody could ever accuse his dad of having boring taste in ties. The bright colors and shapes certainly stood out, but Jon was much more interested in the mechanism in the tie rack that would open the secret compartment in back, like he saw his mom do last night. It wasn't too hard to find, and with one quick pull of a lever, the false wall slid open to reveal the rack of Superman suits that he had seen the previous evening. A small hamper in the corner contained a couple of dirty suits, which, upon inspection, smelled of a mixture of smoke and salt water. Clean capes and blue jumpsuits hung separately in the closet, with the red shorts resting on the upper shelf. Red boots, some dirty, others brightly polished, rested on the floor.
Jon reached for one of the suits. He thought it felt like spandex, not that he was an expert on fabrics. He held it up to his nose and inhaled, and he could smell the fabric softener that his mom used and his dad's aftershave. He ran his hand over the S-shield, feeling its embroidered texture. Where did he get these, anyway? It seemed to Jon that he had seen pictures of Superman with a charred cape on after fighting a fire — he had to have a way of getting new suits. Jon made a mental note to ask his father about this sometime.
Having seen everything there was to see in the closet, Jon closed the false wall and left. He turned his attention to the master bathroom next. He recalled his Grandma Lane saying once that if you wanted to know about the true personality of somebody, look in their medicine cabinet. He made his way to the sink and opened the cabinet. The first thing he noticed was that there were no razors there. Most guys have to shave, and Jon knew from visiting some of his friends houses that shaving equipment was generally the center of attention in the cabinet. All he saw there was a bottle of aftershave. It made sense that a razor couldn't cut the Man of Steel — it must apply to his hair, too. So how did he shave? Or did he even have to?
Aside from this, everything seemed to be pretty normal. Two toothbrushes were housed in the holder by the sink. Plenty of hair styling products occupied the cabinet — some hairspray and mousse for Mom, gel and a jar of really greasy-looking stuff for Dad. The greasy stuff was probably only used when his dad was Superman. Jon's dad's hair normally had a lot of body to it, whereas in all the pictures he had ever seen, Superman's hair was slicked down on his head. A lot of make-up and beauty products occupied his mom's half of the cabinet, too. Nothing new there. Maybe the rest of the bedroom had more answers.
Once out of the bathroom, Jon took a really good look at everything — things he wouldn't think to look at were the first things he tried. The window — there was no screen on it. The better to fly into? The radio on the dresser — did it also have the built-in emergency band? Yes, it did upon further inspection. The pictures on the wall seemed normal enough — the generic school pictures and occasional family shot. A picture of his parent's wedding hung prominently on the wall opposite the door. Jon went to look at that more closely. He was shocked at how little his dad had changed in that time. The glasses were different, and maybe there were a few more laugh lines now, but aside form that, it didn't seem like his dad had changed at all. His mom had quite a few more gray hairs and wrinkles. Plus, her hair was longer now. She seemed to have kept her figure pretty well, though, even after 3 children. Uncle Jimmy almost looked like a kid in the picture, and his grandparents all looked so young and vibrant.
Jon tore his gaze away from the picture and looked around again. On the nightstand he noticed his dad's spare pair of glasses. He went over to pick them up and held them up to his face. As he suspected, they had no correction — they were just glass in stylish frames. Jon put them on and went to look in the mirror. He had to admit, he looked pretty good with glasses on. Would he have to get a pair of these if were to be a future superhero? He would have to have a secret identity, and these seemed to work well for his dad. He made another mental note as he replaced the glasses on the table.
It occurred to Jon that if he really wanted to hide something from somebody, especially his dumb brother, he would shove it under the bed. Mom and Dad's bed had a neat little bedskirt on it that hid what was underneath from the outside world. Jon kneeled onto the floor and lifted the ruffle. There, right under the middle of the bed, was a large scrapbook and a shoebox. He had to slide under the bed a little bit to retrieve the items, but once he got a good look at them, he was glad that he did. In the scrapbook were stories about Superman — from the ones that Mom and Dad had written to the more absurd. There were even some from the Dirt Digger and the National Whisper. "I Had Superman's Love Child"?! Knowing his parents, they probably got a good laugh over that one. Either that, or Mom got really mad.
The shoebox contained pictures that couldn't go with the "family archive" downstairs without revealing the truth. Most of these were photographs of Superman — all originals. Some looked like they were probably taken for the newspaper, but Mom or Dad had somehow managed to get a copy. There were a few — VERY few — with Mom and Superman. Jon guessed that most of these were from before they got married, although there was a couple in which Mom wore a wedding ring. He figured that these were probably taken by Grandma and Grandpa Kent, since it looked like they were on a farm. Superman was smiling, or more accurately, grinning (there IS a difference) in a very un-Superman way, and looking a heck of a lot more like Dad than the superhero. One picture, in particular, caught Jon's eye. It had his mom, standing on the porch with her hand on Superman's shoulder and her eyes looking into his face, and Superman was smiling lovingly at Lois, one hand on the small of her back and the other one on her enlarged belly. *She was probably pregnant with me!* Jon thought with wonder.
He took a quick look at his watch and was dismayed to see that it was time for his brother and sister to be coming home from school. He gently slipped the scrapbook and shoebox back under the bed where he found them and left the room, closing the door gently behind him. It was now time to assess what exactly it was he found out, and where to go from here. He would need to do some more thinking.
Superman floated in the air, high above his own house, and watched as his son closed the door and left the bedroom. He had been worried about Jon, and had been checking up on him periodically throughout the day, from a distance, that is. Superman had seen the boy rush home from school and go straight for the bedroom that he and Lois shared. He had smiled a little, seeing that the snooping gene had taken its hold on the boy. Clark always wondered if his son would follow in their footsteps and become a reporter — Jon certainly had the investigative skills down.
Superman watched as Jon had gone to the closet and the bathroom, and he had chuckled a bit when his son tried on the spare set of glasses. Clark thought his son looked pretty good with them on. He figured they would probably need to go get him a set soon. Clark also observed as his son found the Superman pictures and articles. Lois had started this little collection herself before they ever started dating, and Clark had to admit, he had gotten a kick out it. After they got married, they kept it and added to it, as a way of having some reminders of all he had done, and as a place to put all their Superman pictures so that nobody could find them. Clark's parents had taken a few of him in the suit with Lois throughout the years, and those were kept safely hidden in the collection as well. Lois also had quite a collection of Superman comics and novels that Jon hadn't found.
Jon left the room at almost the exact time that the bus dropped off Laura and CJ a couple of blocks away. At least the boy was trying to be discreet, and this was a relief to Clark. He had secretly hoped that Jon would allow Clark to tell the other two in his own time, when he thought they were ready. Hopefully, he would do a better job of it with them, he mused. Clark made a note to ask Jon a little later for advice on how to best let them know. All said, Jon seemed to be handling everything pretty well. Clark hung around long enough to make sure the younger children got home okay and took off toward the Planet. There was still plenty of work to be done before quitting time, and Lois would certainly want to hear the latest updates. He thought ahead to what would happen with his son when he went home for the night — would he be receptive? Would he be willing to talk? Would Jon even want to be in the same room with him? It was all so frustrating, but Clark was still excited.
You're not going to believe what has happened to me in the last 24 hours. I don't even believe it. Where should I start? Well, the truth works best: Dad is Superman. I am the son of Superman. I am half alien. I might be a superhero when I grow up, too — I already have some super powers, as you know: the x-ray vision and superhearing. I guess, if I think about it, I also have some of the invulnerability and strength; I just haven't really had much of an occasion to use it. Remember that time last year when I lost control of my bike and hit the parked car? I went face first into the ground, but somehow I didn't have a single scratch — I thought I had just gotten lucky. Luck didn't really play into it.
Dad IS Superman. I saw him change out of the super-suit last night. I saw the suits. I've seen some articles and pictures. And yet I still don't really believe it. Why? Because it just doesn't seem right. I mean, I've lived with Mom and Dad all my life, and I've never once seen superpowers being used, not even last night. If I think about it, they were probably used really subtly. Remember how it always seemed like Mom and Dad always knew what we had been doing, even if they were nowhere around? Remember going camping — when it started to rain and we couldn't get the campfire started, Mom and Dad sent us off to get more firewood ("Maybe we'll find some drier stuff") and when we came back, the fire was always going strong. Remember some of the weird take-out meals we had? Makes you wonder, doesn't it?
Here's another thing: I KNOW my dad's personality. We're friends, right? I always thought so. What are his personality traits? Think about it: he's kind, gentle, kinda shy sometimes, loving, funny, a little dorky (I'm not knocking it — I probably am, too. And I KNOW my brother is. It's a family trait). Now contrast that with what I know about Superman: he's humorless, very strong and unflinching. He cares for human life and makes sure that people don't get hurt, but in a generally impersonal manner (the guy saves so many lives, it would be really draining to get emotionally attached with everybody). How can it be possible that these two personalities are part of the same guy? I'm hoping to find this out. I already looked through Mom and Dad's room hoping to find something, and I did find some interesting stuff. Did you know that his glasses are just plain glass — they don't magnify anything or focus anything? Did you know he doesn't shave in the way that you think? I have no clue how he does it, but it's not with a razor. And how the heck does he cut his hair? I'm going to the library tomorrow — maybe I can find some video or articles that give something away. I'll keep you posted.
The thing that galls me the most about this whole situation is that I didn't get any of this from Dad — I had to find it out for myself. I'm not going to tell CJ or Laura — I want them to get it from the source. Let's hope he does a better job with them. Anyways, I kinda want to keep things to myself right now, just until I get my facts straight. Until then, don't expect me to be Mr. Social. I think I'm going to stay away from Mom and Dad (especially Dad) for a while. I'll observe. I have the reporting gene in me (among others), let's see how well it works.
I'll talk to you later, diary. Bye.
Lois Lane spent her Saturday morning catching up on some reading. She relished this Saturday quiet time — it was one of the few times all week she had to herself. Clark always went in to work Saturdays (Lois took Sunday — that was Clark's day at home), and the boys almost never showed their faces outside of their rooms before 10 AM. Laura, being more of a morning person, would get up with her mother, but Lois found that a bowl of Cheerios and some cartoons would last her daughter for several hours.
This particular morning was proving to be a little unusual. Jonathan pulled himself out of bed at eight AM and had immediately left, telling his mother that he was going to the library and that he would be back for supper. Now, Jon was always a studious kid, pretty serious, but an all day trip to the library? Lois figured she knew what was behind it - Clark had told her of Jon's little exploration of their bedroom. Jon was researching, and Lois had figured that there wasn't any harm in that. Lord knows that she had done enough researching over the years when trying to deal with her emotions. Besides, it couldn't get a whole lot worse than last night.
Lois had felt Clark's anticipation the previous day at work — he wanted to talk to his son. More precisely, Clark needed his son to talk to him — it was absolutely killing him not knowing what Jon was thinking. Clark took a lot of stock in how his children felt about him — he wanted to be the perfect father, and most of the time he was. It didn't usually take any exceptional effort on his part, either. The prospect that his eldest son might have lost his faith in his father terrified Clark, and Lois knew it. She also knew that when Clark felt an emotion powerfully, he had a tendency to get irrational. Certainly, forcing Jon to talk to Clark would be the wrong thing to do right now — Lois had been there. Jon needed time more than anything, time that Clark wasn't readily going to give him.
In any case, once they arrived at home the previous day, Clark had taken his first opportunity to ask Jon how he was doing, if he wanted to talk. Clark was given the silent treatment, the cold shoulder. Jon didn't treat his mother much better, either, but Lois knew it was just an act — she would look at her son when he didn't know it, and she could see the conflict on his face. Jon had retreated to his room shortly after supper. Lois tried to keep her younger two children blissfully ignorant of what was going on between Jon and his parents, popping in a movie and making popcorn. Clark joined them, acting carefree and making little jokes about the movie, but Lois knew that was just an act, too. As soon as Laura was put to bed, Clark was in the suit and out the door. Even though there weren't any major disasters, he didn't come home until very late - it had to be about six AM Lois cuddled him close when he crawled into bed, trying to reassure him, loosen him up. He seemed to be feeling a little better — wherever he had gone, it had calmed him down.
Lois sighed from her perch on the sofa in the living room. Laura, still in her pajamas, was sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of her, her cereal about half gone. The cartoon on the TV had caught the girl's complete attention, but Lois's thoughts were elsewhere. As nice as it was to stare mindlessly at the TV sometimes, it was time she got back to reading the Ridley Davenport novel that Clark had given her a couple of days ago. She picked up her pen and paper and scribbled some notes. The author had obviously briefed himself on Superman's acts throughout the years, and used those to build a plot around. The main characters, who were clearly modeled after her and Clark, really didn't have much in common with them once you got past the superficial. The author had been really clever, though, in trying to figure out how Superman really lived his daily life. Lois thought it was pretty funny — Superman was supposed to have shaved with a Kryptonite razor and cut his hair with Kryptonite scissors. The author had speculated about the ramifications of their sex life — he used some Kleenex analogy to explain how Superman's sperm would affect his wife. THAT got Lois laughing. He had been pretty accurate when he depicted Superman cooking with his heat vision and floating in his sleep. Clark didn't cook with his vision as much as he used to — he had to be careful around the children. And the floating in his sleep thing had diminished to practically nothing after their children came around, probably because Superman took on a much lighter work schedule at about that time.
Lois was doubtful that the author really knew that much about her and Clark. She wondered if he really knew about Clark's secret at all, or if he just used Clark as a character because of his closeness with the Man of Steel. Whatever the answer, she intended to find out. One thing she had found out over the years and that you could never be too careful. They just didn't know what Mr. Davenport's motivations or intentions were. Until they did, they would have to keep an eye out. This was not a great time to have an upset child out there who knew Clark's secret, but knowing her son, Lois Lane didn't worry too much. Jon's nature was so much like Clark's it was eerie. He would come around eventually, and Lois knew it.
Jon Kent ran his fingers through his hair and glanced at his watch. He had been in the same seat in the library for the better part of 5 hours, reading everything they had on Superman, Mom, and Dad. Next he was going to move to the video room, but only after he had a little bit of lunch. They didn't allow food in the library, so Jon went outside to sit on the steps and enjoy the sandwich that he'd brought with him from home. He'd Xeroxed a couple of articles and brought these with him to read while he ate.
All the reading throughout they day had led him to some interesting discoveries. It seemed that Superman was missing in action for whole weeks at a time around the times that he, CJ, and Laura were born, as well as when Mom and Dad got married. The papers had generally made a big deal about it at the time, but Jon figured even Superman was entitled to a week off from time to time to tend to his family (even if the whole rest of the world didn't know that's what it was for). Jon thought it was interesting that, starting about the time Mom and Dad got married, Lois Lane and Clark Kent no longer reported the majority of Superman's feats for the Daily Planet. Maybe this was their way of distancing themselves from their affiliations with Superman.
Jon had never really thought too much about the burden it must be to have to keep such a huge secret. He knew his parents were very much in love — how hard must it be to control themselves when they were in public and Dad was dressed as Superman? It was hard enough trying to get them not to have excessive displays of affection when they were out in public on a normal basis! And when Dad wasn't dressed as Superman, he probably really had to control himself — he couldn't let anybody see him doing "super" feats or else his secret would be out.
It was well known that Superman went to save the world from huge disasters on a regular basis. Disasters don't exactly ask you what time you have free before occurring — no, they always happened at the most inopportune times. Jon remembered reading two disaster articles in particular that made him think about timing, the job of a superhero, and how it affected his family. In one, there was a major earthquake in Turkey. Jon remembered that day vividly — the whole family had taken the day to go to the local theme park. Jon and Dad and CJ were standing in line to go on the "Decimator," the really, REALLY big roller coaster there, when all of a sudden, his dad got a faraway look on his face. Jon knew the look — he had always thought that Dad was just concentrating. Anyways, he said something about his forgetting a story and ran away. He didn't come back for the rest of the day, and wasn't home that night, either. Jon had known that his parents were serious about stories, but they never let that interfere with prescheduled family time. He had been very hurt that night, despite his mom's best efforts to assure him that everything was okay and that Dad really did love him. If he'd have known then what he knew now. Superman had saved so many lives in Turkey when he was there, yet all Jon knew was that his father had walked out on their family time.
The second article Jon read dealt with a sinking ship and bemoaned the fact that Superman didn't show up until the boat was almost completely under. Jon remembered that day, too — it was the day he played his solo in the city-wide honor band last year. That was one of the biggest days of his life — he was so nervous. His parents had been very proud of him, and they had sat through the concert and had given him a standing ovation at the end. He loved them so much that night — for their support of him, and for just being terrific parents. Now Jon knew that his father had ignored a call for help, just to be with him. People could've died — it had to have been very difficult for Dad to stick around, but he did anyway. Jon's heart swelled when he thought about the whole thing. It made being objective about research really hard to do, though. He had copied that article and stuck it in his bag — that was going in his own little scrapbook, if only as a reminder of what his father did for him.
As Jon bit into his ham and cheese sandwich, he pulled another article out of his bag. He was saving this one for last. It was the earliest Superman article that the library had, and it was written by Lois Lane. Jon unfolded the paper and studied the picture next to the article — it showed Superman flying through the newsroom window at the Planet with Lois in his arms. Jon could see how long Superman's hair was then — he had never seen his dad with his hair that long. It was almost as long as Jon's was right now. And his mother looked so young! An expression of uncontained wonder was plastered on her face in the photograph. Even his dad had a little bit of a goofy grin going on underneath the heroic facade. He knew his dad well enough that he could see this, even if nobody else could. The article next to the picture dealt with an explosion, and how Superman had saved the day. It was written very professionally, of course — his mother didn't let any of her emotions seep through. Jon got kind of a kick out of reading about Superman's first appearance in Metropolis — people really didn't know what to make of him. Friend or foe? Jon found it hard to believe that anybody could think that his father was capable of doing anything evil, but people just didn't know him back then.
Jon stuffed the article back into his bag as he finished off his sandwich. This trip had certainly been educational so far, and he had only been perusing the printed material. Now it was time to see what the electronic media had to say about Mom and Dad. Maybe he could see how Dad acted when in the suit. Maybe he could get a better idea of what made him tick. Then, maybe, he could go home and do some more observing.
Clark left work for the day at noon and headed for home with an assortment of folders tucked under his arm. As he walked in the door of his house, he was greeted with the smell of soup cooking on the stove. Laura and CJ were playing Frisbee in the afternoon sun, and Lois was sitting on the patio, finishing up reading the Ridley Davenport novel. Clark gave her a quick kiss before sitting in the chair next to her, dropping the folders in his lap.
"It looks like you've been busy," Lois said, a smile plastered on her face.
"Who me?" Clark smiled back, giving an innocent look. "This took about two minutes at superspeed." He pointed to the folders on his lap as he spoke. "How about you? It looks like you've been busy yourself."
"I was just reading about Superman's incredible feats. I could do that all day." Lois looked back at the novel, acting as if it was the most interesting thing in the world.
Clark couldn't resist the opportunity. "I've always thought that experiencing Superman's incredible feats first hand was MUCH more interesting than reading about them." He leaned over to kiss Lois again, more deeply this time.
Lois emerged for air, leaning back in her chair with satisfaction. "I think you may have a point there."
Clark grinned. "Mmmm."
They sat contentedly for a few seconds, their hands entwined, before Lois decided to break the happy silence and get back to business.
"So," she said, "what did you find out about our favorite author?" She and Clark had targeted today as being their day to do some digging on Ridley Davenport, trying to see what he knew.
Clark pulled a thin folder off of his lap and opened it. "Ridley Michael Davenport, born November 5, 1973 in Des Moines, Iowa. Went to college at Iowa State University on a National Merit Scholarship, majoring in civil engineering. Graduated in 1997 at about the middle of his class and immediately took a job with an engineering firm in Metropolis. Apparently writing was his hobby, because he started writing stories for magazines shortly thereafter. His first book was published seven years later, and was an immediate success. He quit his engineering job to take up writing full time and has been doing that ever since."
"Any criminal record?"
"Nope. He's as clean as clean can be. He had a few parking tickets in college. That's about it."
Lois looked a bit dismayed. "Does this guy have any dirt at all?"
"Not that I could find, and I looked pretty thoroughly."
"I'm sure you did, Mr. 'I-did-this-all-in-two-minutes.'"
"Ha-ha. Seriously, he's never been married, doesn't frequent the 'wild' scene, hasn't had any upset former girlfriends, has never been sued. Good credit rating."
"I'm not asking him to buy any major appliances for me."
"ANYWAY, as far as I can tell, he would have no reason to benefit from exposing Superman. He seems like just a normal, average guy."
Lois snatched the file out of his hands and looked it over herself. She put it down a few minutes later and let out an exasperated sigh. "You know Clark, it's those quiet ones that end up being the psychopathic killers."
"Uh-huh." He gave her a bemused glance.
"They lurk in the shadows, so quiet and mild-mannered that nobody even knows they exist, then BAM! They go crazy in a post office or something!"
"Lois." Clark rolled his eyes and shook his head. "You think that's what all us quiet guys do, huh?"
"Well, present company excepted of course." She giggled.
"I would hope so." He kissed her hand, then got serious again. "These other files I have are just more of the same. This one," he picked up a really fat file, "contains all the work that he's had published, including books. His latest novel," he pointed to the manuscript in Lois's lap, "is his first superhero retrospective."
"So, why start now? And how DOES he know? Or does he really know at all?"
"You can ask him yourself. I have an interview set up for this afternoon, like you wanted."
"Oh, good." Lois smiled and rose from her chair. "I better get lunch on the table then." Lois wandered into the kitchen and made some sandwiches to accompany the soup. While she was gone, Clark took the opportunity to have some time with his two youngest children. By the time Lois got back, Laura was running around with her father's tie around her forehead, a blanket from the treehouse worn as a toga. Clark and CJ were pretending to be gladiators, battling for the pleasure of the empress. Each gladiator had their own sound effects, and each looked a little scruffy, like they had been rolling around in the grass. As Lois watched, the imaginary swords held by the two clanged together, and Clark flopped to the ground, pretending to be hit. CJ went over to finish him off, but Clark rolled out of the way, popping up to a standing position and placing his "sword" at the ready.
Lois cleared her throat, drawing their attention toward her. Clark was just a big kid, Lois had no doubt. She grinned at her crew and announced lunch. As Clark approached, Lois looked at his now dirty shirt with one eyebrow cocked.
"Have you developed a new superpower that gets grass stains out of white shirts?" she asked quietly enough for the kids not to hear.
Clark got a wicked grin on his face. "You think this is a grass stain? Maybe a little later I'll show you what it takes to get a REAL grass stain!" He made a growling sound as he scooped her into his arms and kissed her on the neck. Lois let out a little yelp and then threw her head back and laughed as Clark carried her into the kitchen. The children paid no notice to the scene their parents were making — it was just a normal day in the Kent household.
As Superman flew over the city on his nightly patrol, he looked back on the events of that afternoon and evening.
The interview with Ridley Davenport had gone well, and it had given them all the information that they wanted. Mr. Davenport seemed surprised to see the famous Lois Lane and Clark Kent outside his door - the very characters that he had based his new book on. All he had been told was that the Daily Planet was sending reporters over to interview him on a series they were doing about Metropolis authors. They had stuck to questions about his previous works for most of the interview, but then mentioned that his publisher had said he was writing a new book on Superman. He seemed to get really nervous at this point, but he had no reason to believe that they had actually read the book (and why should he? The only copies were on his hard drive, at the publishing office, and at the Superman Foundation), so he lightened up pretty quickly and answered their questions honestly.
"So what made you decide to write a novel about Superman's life?" Lois had asked.
Mr. Davenport had smiled nervously and said, "Well, I got to looking at what had been written about him previously, and his life was an area that hadn't really been speculated about. I thought it might make an interesting story."
"So have you ever met Superman before?" Clark asked, just to gauge his honesty. Clark had literally met thousands of people in his years as Superman, but he had a pretty good memory. He was certain he had never saved this man or been interviewed by him.
"Oh, no," Ridley had answered right away. "All I know about him is what I read in the papers and saw on the news."
Clark was pleased with this answer. He decided to probe a little deeper. "How did you come up with details about Superman's life?"
This question didn't phase the author too much. "Oh, I just set up a secret identity for him and then thought about how Superman would handle different everyday situations."
Lois pretended to look surprised. "A secret identity?! That's a novel concept!"
Mr. Davenport smiled at the semi-compliment. "Well, the idea's been out there. It's just that nobody's ever been able to prove it or follow through on it. I don't know why, either — it's a pretty logical thing for Superman to have a secret identity. How else would he be able to live a life? It's not like he's flying around out there twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week."
Clark could practically see the alarm bells going off in Lois's head, but she kept her external calm. She did hesitate briefly before asking her next question.
"If I may ask, what kind of secret identity did you give him?"
Ridley looked nervous all over again. He seemed a bit flustered as he answered the question. "If I told you, it would ruin the whole story now, wouldn't it?" He let out a nervous chuckle, thinking that they should find that witty. Clark knew that Lois never liked it when people were evasive, so he sat back and let her ask the question that he knew was coming.
"Oh, come on!" Lois said, almost playfully. "Not even a little hint?"
Ridley eyed Lois for a second before giving his answer. "Let's just say that it's a profession where he would be expected to know what was going on in the world."
Lois still wasn't completely satisfied, but she let it go. He was obviously nervous that the basis of his story was sitting in front him. Having covered all the subjects on the agenda, she decided that it was time to go. She had said something about looking forward to reading his book, since she was such a big Superman fan, they shook his hand and left. Lois asked Clark what he thought, and he had said that the author's heart rate seemed to be pretty steady when they asked about how he formulated the details about Superman's life, meaning that he likely hadn't gotten them by dishonest means. He only seemed to really be bothered by questions that would give away that Lois and Clark were supposed to be the main characters.
So the interview went. Clark didn't think he would need to be worried about Ridley Davenport from this point on — just reject the book and let him go on with his life. By the time they picked up the children from Lois' mother's (where she always left them when they were on weekend interviews together), it was time to cook supper. Jon came home from the library at about the time that dinner was being served. He had been very quiet and disinterested during the whole meal, avoiding any eye contact with his parents and grunting when they tried to talk to him. Clark knew that his son was avoiding him. Pressing Jon into talking the previous evening had probably done more harm than good, so Clark just kept quiet and let Jon do his thing. He did ask him if he still wanted to go upstate tomorrow. Jon muttered something about having a big homework assignment due on Monday and retreated to his room for the second night in a row.
Clark would be lying if he were to deny that the whole situation with his son hurt. A lot. Last night he'd thrown himself into his patrol and then took a brief trip to the Himalayas to think. It had helped, he had to admit, but whatever healing that trip had accomplished had gone right down the tubes as he saw Jon run up to his room again. So after helping Lois clean up after supper, he changed into the suit and left. He knew it was probably unfair to Lois, his leaving like that. He tried to talk to her a little about what he was feeling on the car ride after the interview, but she didn't seem to fully appreciate the depths of his hurt. He felt responsible for driving Jon away from them, for implanting the seeds of doubt into his mind. Lois had been confident that he would be just fine, but Clark wasn't as optimistic. What if he never trusted them again? Clark loved his son so much — he was already grieving for the lost opportunities, the things that they would never share with each other.
Lois had told him that he was too sensitive sometimes. "Doom and Gloom" was the expression she had used. Not all things had a bad outcome - sometimes people just needed to sit back and sort things out for themselves before discussing them with others. She was probably right — she usually was in matters such as these, but that didn't stop Clark from worrying anyway. So there he was, flying high above the city, looking for any situation where his services might be needed.
His opportunity came soon enough. Superman saw an orange glow on the horizon and headed toward it. A warehouse in a neighborhood close to where he lived had caught fire, threatening the surrounding area. Anymore it seemed like a warehouse went up in flames about every other day. This one was fairly routine, but even so it took a few hours to get it under control. As the fire died down, Superman checked with the fire chief to make sure there was nothing else that needed to be done. The fire chief replied that there wasn't, thanking Superman for all the help that he had provided. They shook hands and the hero took off skyward, looking for the next opportunity to help. He hadn't noticed a teenage boy on a bicycle in the crowd surrounding the smoldering warehouse, watching his every movement.
Today I did some in-depth investigating. Most of my time was spent at the library, although my investigation did include a bit of "field work." I think I'm beginning to come to an understanding — now all that's left is to talk to my dad. I'm not sure I want to do that just yet — I just blew off the trip upstate we were supposed to take tomorrow. And I might be wrong, but I thought he looked a little hurt when I turned him down. Before I go any further, maybe I should tell you what I found out today.
At the library I did a lot of reading and a lot of watching videos, and one thing hit me the most: how much time my dad spends as Superman. If you look at it, it's only usually a couple of hours a day, if that. But here you have Clark Kent, my father, who has a full-time job, a wife, 3 kids, a house, parents. Just being himself should be more than enough to keep anyone very busy. But here you also have Superman, who's trying to save the world from disasters. Superman needs time to do his work, so what do you take it away from? Looking at the things I did today, it seems to be spread around pretty evenly, although we, his loving family, seem to be doing pretty well. Sure, there were times that he walked out on us to save people, but there were just as many times that he didn't.
So how do you make that decision? How CAN you make that decision? Let a robbery happen or watch my elementary school graduation? Let somebody fall off a building or comfort CJ when he has a nightmare? How can you live with yourself for just letting bad things happen and not stopping them if you know you can? On the other hand, how can you live with yourself if you're never there for anyone who loves you? I suppose even if Superman was out there saving the world 24-7, he probably still wouldn't be able to save everybody and everyone. This is a big city - stuff happens all the time. If Dad was here all the time for his family, maybe he still couldn't be the perfect father. But you know what? I almost hate to admit this right now, considering how I've been feeling about the guy lately, but my dad really is darn good father. He's only been gone a few times when something important in our lives was going on, and I know now that those coincided with major disasters around the world, things where Superman saved countless lives. Let's compare this to some of my friends' dads. One is an alcoholic, three of them are divorced, and of those three, only one sees his son on a regular basis. One is a lawyer, and even when he is at home, he locks himself in the den to work on cases. I probably have the best dad of any of my friends, and he's off being Superman, for goodness sakes!
Okay, I should probably tell you about the last part of my investigation, the "field work." After supper tonight, I came up here and tuned my radio to the local news station. I put it on headphones so that my super-dad wouldn't be as likely to figure out what I was doing. After about an hour, they said there was a fire happening at a warehouse in my part of town, so I slipped out of the house and rode my bike down there to watch it. Dad was there, of course, helping to put out the fire. He would fly up and position the hose on the fire in ways that the firemen couldn't. He would go in and rescue firemen right before sections of the warehouse collapsed. He would x-ray the building and report to the fire chief the structural stability. I watched all this - it took about 3 hours in all. I sat in a crowd of people and he didn't look my way once. I was in awe the whole time, looking at Dad do those things. My dad. It's incredible.
Well, this is getting long, so I'll leave you alone. I don't know what I'm going to do tomorrow, but I think I'll be planning my talk with Dad. It'll happen. So anyway, I'll talk to you later.
The day to this point had been pretty similar to any other - Jon's "science class doodle" had grown to the point of being a full-fledged work of art. In English class he managed to stare outside THROUGH the wall when not half-heartedly paying attention to whatever Shakespeare play they were reading today. And now, blessedly, lunch.
The menu had said Salisbury steak, although what the lunch lady had placed on the plate in front of him sure looked a lot like the mystery meat his mom would serve up. Oh well. It didn't really matter - he would eat it happily. Right now he could eat a whole cow — never let it be said that he hadn't inherited his father's appetite. Jon made the most of his $2 worth of lunch money by loading up on the desserts and whatever else looked good.
He was already helping himself to the food on his tray when a disturbance out in the lunch room distracted him. The usual murmur of voices in the cafeteria gave way to surprised questions and finally to screaming. Jon dropped his lunch tray onto the counter and strode the three steps to the door of the cafeteria, past a worried looking cashier. What he saw made his face pale and eyes widen. Students were running haphazardly out any door they could find, and in the middle of them stood a student Jon couldn't place, sobbing, and holding a gun. The guy was staggering toward the table where his former girlfriend sat with her friends, all of whom were obviously too frightened to move. They just stared at the gun.
"Tammi!" the guy cried. Jon suddenly remembered his name was Dan. Dan stopped about fifty feet from the table where the girls were sitting. "Tammi, without you I can't live. There's only one place where we can be happy now. We're going there together!" The last word was shouted. A sudden look of determination came over Dan's face as he raised the gun, aimed it at his terrified ex- and pulled the trigger.
As soon as the gun was raised, Jon's senses sharpened until all his attention was focused on nothing but the gun itself. The screaming students faded into the background along with his monumental appetite. He could hear clearly the mechanical parts interact as the trigger was pulled. The sound of the gun firing was deafening. Without any conscious thought of the possible consequences, Jon began to run as fast as he could toward the bullet. Time seemed to dilate as he ran. The bullet almost seemed to hang in the air before him, the gunpowder surrounding it in a halo. As he approached it, he put is hand up in the path of the approaching bullet. A hot, searing pain went down his arm as it exerted its force against his skin. Even as the bullet pulled his hand along its trajectory, Jon willed it to stop. The skin in his palm burned where the bullet had impacted, but it held. Even as this one was being stopped, another one, two, three, four bullets were being fired. He never stopped running. Turning to approach the gunman again, he stopped each of the subsequent bullets. The pain in his hand wasn't as bad for the next four he stopped, but a brief flash through his mind reminded him that it was probably because of the initial pain clouding his thoughts. As the last bullet was dropped to the ground, Jon watched in slow motion as Dan raised the gun to his right temple.
*NO!* Jon's mind screamed. He now ran toward the gunman full bore, praying he wasn't too late. Dan's finger just began to tense on the trigger when the gun was ripped away from him. Gun in hand, Jon kept running toward the nearest exit, students running in slow motion around him. If it wasn't for the situation, the almost frozen looks of terror on their faces might have seemed comical. But no thoughts of that right now; he kept running until he couldn't see any more people, and then allowed himself to stop. The world slammed back into its normal speed and Jon had to blink a few times to reorient himself with it. As he looked down at the gun in his hands, he could feel his legs giving out on him. He made his way over to the nearest building and slid down to a sitting position. What now? What could he possibly do now?
Only one solution came to mind.
"HELP!" he yelled as loud as he possibly could. He chocked back tears and yelled again, this time his cry sounded so much more desperate. Almost before he could blink, his father appeared before him as Superman.
"Son, what it is?" Superman looked extremely worried, almost frantic. He approached Jon and kneeled beside him. It occurred to Jon that this was the first time that he had really seen his father dressed in the suit up close, but that thought was pushed away. He looked longingly into Superman's face, the tears in his eyes obscuring his peripheral vision, and saw any attempt to appear the stoic superhero disappear from his father's face quickly. Jon threw his arms around Superman, any rift between the two forgotten, and let the floodgates open as he wept over his father's shoulder. Superman embraced his son and tried to comfort him as best he could.
"I can't believe what happened!" Jon sobbed. "They could've died. They WOULD'VE died."
"Shhh. Jonny, shhh." Superman began to become concerned that someone might witness the very emotional exchange with his son. He was wearing his emotions on his sleeve right now, and he didn't think he could bear to put back on the "hero" mask and leave his son to face this alone right now.
"Oh, Daddy," Jon cried, loud enough for someone to hear if they were standing close. Superman smiled a little at hearing his fifteen-year-old son refer to him as 'Daddy' again for the first time since he was about 10, but the smile faded as he saw people approaching. After glancing into the nearby high school to make sure everything was okay, Superman lifted his son, whose arms were still firmly wrapped around him, off the ground and into the air, bound for the house.
Jon's face had been buried against his father's neck before he was picked up off the ground, and it stayed there until his father leaned over and placed him into his bed. The rushing air against his body during the flight hadn't even registered, just the warm embrace of his father. Superman. The most powerful man in the world, the man who had faced down nuclear bombs and flown to the depths of space, the man who could crush whole buildings or mountains if he so wished. Superman. The man who had always been gentle and loving toward his children and his wife, and who would never willingly harm anyone or anything. Jon felt so safe and secure in his arms it was almost overwhelming.
The feel of the bed under him snapped Jon back into reality. As he let go of his father, he noticed for the first time that he still had the gun clutched in his right hand. After looking at it for a second, he held it out for his dad to take. Superman took the gun and crushed it into a ball of metal. He looked his son in the eye and said, "I'll be back in a second. I need to get rid of this and change, but when I get back, I want you to tell me everything that happened. Okay?"
Jon nodded. True to his word, Superman disappeared and exactly one second later Clark Kent appeared in front of his son, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. He put his glasses on as he sat down on the bed.
"So, I'm guessing there was a shooting," Clark said. He knew darn well there was a shooting, but he had to get the conversation started somehow. Jon was now sitting in the middle of the bed, and he began to draw his knees to his chest.
"Yeah," Jon replied. He directed his attention out the window he had so recently entered.
"You want to tell me about it?"
"Well, I was getting lunch," Jon started. He frowned, realizing he was still hungry. That can wait, he thought. "And I heard people yelling in the lunch room. I went to see what was going on and I saw this guy standing there with a gun. The only thing I could think of was that I couldn't let anyone get hurt. So when the gun fired, I just went out to get the bullets. I didn't even think about anybody seeing me getting hit by the bullets. I didn't think about if they would hurt me or not. I just did it." He looked down at his hands, remembering the pain when he was hit. A dark bruise was already beginning to form at the point where each bullet impacted him. He glanced INTO his hands and saw all the bones still intact.
Clark saw Jon examine his hands and took each of them gently in his own. After looking at (and through) his son's hands himself, he kissed them lightly. "I hope that helps to make you feel better."
Jon smiled for the first time since the ordeal. A kiss always used to make things better when he was a little kid. It had been such a long time.
"I'm really proud of you, Jon." Clark smiled at his son.
Jon felt like he was going to start crying all over again. *He was proud of me!* All of a sudden, Jon remembered the victims. A panicked look came across his face.
Sensing what his son was going to ask, Clark spoke again. "Nobody got hurt. You did a great job! The girls looked dazed and the gunman had collapsed on the floor. The teachers were taking care of him."
Jon got a questioning look on his face and Clark spoke again. "I took a peek just before we left."
Jon was relieved, and all of a sudden he felt very tired. But the need to talk this over with his father overrode that. He looked his dad in the eyes again and began to speak.
"Dad, when I was running to catch those bullets, it's like time didn't exist anymore. NOTHING existed anymore except the gun and the bullets. I could hear the pin hitting the bullet. I could hear the bullet cutting through the air. Is that what it's like all the time?"
Clark thought for a second and began to run his hands over his son's back. "Well, yes and no. Sometimes, I know when I really want something or when I focus on something, it's like the rest of the world goes away." He chuckled. "It's like that every time I'm around your mother."
Jon couldn't resist. "Yeah, it sure feels like that sometimes for me, too," he said sarcastically. The two laughed.
Clark continued. "Seriously, I just got used to it after a while. I keep forgetting how new all this is for you. I try to remember what it was like — it's been a long time. How did I feel the first few times I ran at super speed? The first time I knew I could see through things? The first time I saved a life?"
The room got very quiet. Clark began to speak again, softer this time. "Saving somebody's life is one of the most exhilarating experiences in the world. That's one thing that you really don't ever get used to. Every time that you know saved someone from drowning or burning or being shot, well, then you know. You know how you can contribute to the world, how you can make a difference. It's something that so many people will never know. And when you can't save someone, you feel sorrow, the depths of which can swallow you up sometimes. You ask yourself over and over again what you could've done differently."
Jon was almost shocked at how his father was bearing his soul. Until a few days ago he had always just been Dad, the reporter, the guy who cooked the hamburgers or threw you the football, the guy who would let his wife push him around sometimes. Now Jon could see the complexity of his personality, as well as the depth of his caring. And he was grateful to his father for letting him see it. The tears welled up in Jon's eyes once again.
He spoke, "I know I treated you pretty lousy the last few days after I find out you know." Jon braved a look into his father's face. "I had no idea. I never knew before today what it was you go through. I'm so sorry."
"You don't need to be. I feel guilty for not telling you the family secret earlier. You had every right to be mad." Clark stopped stroking his son's back and pushed Jon's hair out of his face.
"No, Dad. I can't begin to tell you how much it means to me that you are willing share all this with me. I guess it wasn't much of a choice after last week, but still." Jon smiled at his dad. "I guess, if I think about it, I'm also grateful for all the times that you were there for me when you could've been out saving the world. You went to my concerts and my plays. Heck, we went on family vacations for weeks at a time!"
"Uh, yeah, well…" Clark scratched his head and looked around somewhat shyly. "What you DIDN'T know was that after you and your brother and sister went to bed I kinda flew back here to take care of things. I wouldn't have wanted to advertise to the world that the man of steel was on vacation — do whatever you please."
Jon was somewhat surprised by this revelation, but it made sense. He nodded. "Well, thanks for fessing up." He hoped his dad caught his attempt to lighten the mood.
Clark smiled at his son. "Hey, no problem. We don't keep any more secrets from each other around here, understand? I don't want to come home some day and find out that you've been secretly masquerading as somebody else's kid or something." He put his hands on his hips in an attempt to look stern, but his light-hearted tone had given him away and both of them started giggling. After it subsided, he continued. "Seriously, though, you know you can tell me about ANYTHING, right? I mean, I think I'm pretty good at keeping a secret."
Jon giggled again as he nodded. "Yeah, I know."
"I'm glad to hear it." Clark started to get up, but he was stopped as his son began to speak.
Clark sat back down again and looked Jon in the face. "Yes?"
"I love you, Dad. I just wanted you to know that."
"I love you, too." Clark smiled a deep and loving smile as he went to embrace his boy. He was stopped midway again, this time it was by the very audible growl of Jon's stomach. Jon became a little flushed.
"I, uh, I guess I never did get around to having lunch." Jon gave a quick embarrassed smile before looking a little sad. "I was really looking forward to it, too."
"Well, you know, I was just getting ready to eat something myself before I was interrupted. What do you say we go downstairs and make ourselves sandwiches?" Clark helped Jon out of bed and the two walked down the stairs. Before starting lunch, Clark phoned Jon's school to let them know the boy was okay — in all the confusion, many kids had disappeared or just gone home. In a way Clark was grateful for the impromptu day off. It was time to spend some quality time with his son.
Today I did my first "super" feat. Well, the first one in public, that is. Not that anybody knew it was me — they all just figured it was Superman, and that's just fine with me. I saved at least two lives — those people would've been DEAD if I wasn't there! I know Dad's fast but he wouldn't have been able to help. It's just so cool to think that I could help like that. Dad said the feeling would be indescribable, and it is. Of course, my hands didn't fare so well — my palms are all black and blue from the bullets. Dr. Klein assured me that it was just because my aura wasn't fully developed yet. "Think of it this way," he said. "If you were any normal person, they would've gone right through you." So for the next couple of years I won't be perfectly invulnerable, but if everything goes like he predicts, when I turn eighteen, a train could run into me and I should be perfectly fine. AND I should be able to fly. I'm kinda looking forward to that.
So after going to see Dr. Klein, Dad and I had another heart to heart — we've had a few of those today. We talked about how maybe I should lay off the "super" stuff until I'm a little older and whatever powers I end up with are all there. I agreed that that would be the best, but I don't think I was totally convincing because Dad made a face and said we could go somewhere quiet and have some fun from time to time. I don't know why I was so mad at him before — OK wait, I DO know why I was mad. I was just confused, I guess. But not after today. Let's just say I don't know why I didn't trust him. I mean, I KNOW he loves me, and we talked a lot today and he shared a lot of Superman stuff with me. I think he was really looking forward to the day I knew just so that he could have another person to talk to. What I see now that I didn't see before today is that Dad is still just Dad. Or maybe you can call him Dad plus. Nothing's changed — he'll still make bad jokes at everyone's expense and he'll still go play catch with CJ and me in the yard. I think the guy's just a big kid at heart — of course I've known that for a long time. Superman is Dad, but he's not real. Superman is stern and serious all the time — like the anti-Dad. I asked him about that and he said that sometimes it was necessary to put on a different face — kind of like a mask — in order to protect ourselves. "You know how when you talk on the phone you get a different tone in your voice - kind of perky? Even your MOM sounds perky on the phone and we all know how true THAT one is." I thought that was pretty good. It's kinda like that.
"Well, Superman is everybody's hero — he's expected to be strong and trustworthy and always in control. So I put on a kind of a mask — a phony front — so that I fulfill everybody's expectations about their hero. There are times when I want to cry or to run away, and other times when I just want to smile wide and gloat. But I can't do that, or else everybody's image of their hero will be shattered, or at the least seriously damaged. I put all the feeling in the back of my mind and put on the serious face," he made the face for me, and it sure did look serious, "and deal with it all later when I'm out of the suit." The serious face went away and it was just plain old goofy dad there again. "Besides," he added, "who would ever think that that guy is me?"
Now I've seen my old man "dad-serious," like the time I broke mom's fish tank and he gave me that get-to-your-room-before-I-drag-you-up-there-by-your-ear look. Or when I fell off my bike and he wondered if I was OK. And when he gets to working, watch out. My dad can be serious, but that tends to be the exception, rather than the rule. So I can see where he's coming from. It must be hard, though. As much as I'm looking forward to being "super," hiding myself like that is one thing I don't think I'll like that much. So now I think I can wait, and I told him that. I asked Dad when I would be ready to help him out, and he said that I would just know when the right time was.
I have so much more respect for my dad than I ever did before. He feels like my best friend now, too. What a difference a day makes, huh? He offered to bring me along when Superman does his patrol of the city tonight, provided I wear something dark and I stay at a distance when he does any actual dirty work. I can't wait.
Ridley Davenport sat in the same library archive that Jonathan Kent had just a few days earlier, reviewing the same material. He had a theory, and only reviewing Superman material, along with the biographies of Lane and Kent, would verify what he was thinking.
The letter from the Superman Foundation had arrived yesterday, rejecting his use of the Superman image and effectively killing his novel. The letter had said something about how the novel mirrored the lives of Superman's friends and colleagues, the Kents, too closely and how the adult subject matter might compromise Superman's image. Yeah, right. Ridley had intentionally written the reporters in his novel to be far enough away from the actual lives of Lane and Kent that they couldn't be confused with them. And as for the adult issues, well, the reporters were supposed to be married. Ridley figured that even Superman could have sex with his wife. He didn't even go into detail about it in the novel. No, there was something else going on here.
What if his book hit too close to home? Ridley hadn't even really considered it before. When he was researching his novel, the only things he had looked into were accounts of Superman's feats throughout the years. He never really looked into Lane and Kent, nor did he look at the tabloid headlines very closely, figuring that they were likely fiction in and of themselves. He looked now, though. Every now and then a little bit of truth leaked though the smutty headlines — finding it was the trick. Finding anything on the reporters was a trick too - journalists generally didn't like to write about other journalists.
After several hours spent pouring over material, only to reexamine it, Ridley was faced with a short biography of Clark Kent, written after his nomination for the Pulitzer a few years back (he didn't win), and a retrospective written on Superman on the tenth anniversary of his first appearance in Metropolis. Both articles contained pictures, and these were what Ridley focused on. He had made Xeroxes of the articles so that he could make notes in the margin. If he was right, then Clark Kent was really Superman, and that's why the Man of Steel didn't want his book published. That must also be why the Kents came to interview him themselves. It was hard to prove this, however, and his notes in the margins were inconclusive. In his frustration, Ridley picked up his pen and began to doodle on the picture of Superman. He absently drew a pair of glasses, colored a business suit over his Superman outfit, and drew his hair up as if it were styled. The effect was stunning.
There, right in front of him, was his proof, in the form of a doodle. With a shaky hand, Ridley held his marked-up picture of Superman next to the picture of Kent from the Pulitzer article. Fortunately, the shots had been taken from the same angle, and in both the subject was smiling cordially. It was remarkable, really. Ridley was surprised more people hadn't done the same thing and noticed for themselves.
So what now? His "proof" didn't rest, in fact, but in a doodle, so it wouldn't do any good trying to go public with it — he would get shot down in flames. He could confront Kent with his knowledge and demand his book get published. He could tail Kent for a while to get more facts. He could get stinking rich by exploiting his knowledge. BUT Ridley was an honest person, and a very non-confrontational honest person, at that. Was it really worth trying to exploit or even confront SUPERMAN for his own personal gain? He would certainly pay the price eventually.
Ridley closed his eyes and briefly thought about Clark Kent. The man was married, he had a family. If you were him, Superman, with villains after you constantly, wouldn't you guard you secret with everything that was in you? Yes, he would. Ridley sighed, then he began to laugh a little. The situation really was pretty humorous. Imagine, a desperate author had managed to stumble on the biggest secret in the world by writing a piece of fiction. *I guess life really does imitate art sometimes,* he thought, and began to laugh harder. He caught himself as the other library patrons began to look at him.
So what now, he asked himself again. He gathered up his papers, doodle included, and slipped them in his bag. These were not going to see the light of day again. He would make sure that Superman's secret was safe! As he was picking up the article on Clark Kent, his eye caught a particular paragraph, and inspiration struck him again. Kent had children. Oh, this was good. These were natural, biological children with Lois Lane, which meant that these were also future superheroes, most likely. This was really good! Ridley Davenport was already mentally writing his next novel. The title was going to be "Superboy," and since it didn't directly deal with Superman, he wouldn't have to run it through the Superman Foundation first. All of a sudden the rejection of his Superman novel didn't seem so bad — this next one was going to be better! And when the young superhero did actually burst onto the scene, he would look like a genius! Ridley walked out of the library, a sparkle in his eye and a spring in his step, and headed straight to his computer.
Six years later
Jonathan Kent leaned his trombone against the wall just inside his apartment door. He could smell the aroma of a late supper coming from the kitchen, and he headed in to catch a bite without even taking off his coat. It had already been a long day — he'd had to play in the pep band at a Metropolis University basketball double header. Even for a guy with superpowers, he got worn out after those. His brother CJ stood in front of the stove, serving up a healthy portion of spaghetti.
Having CJ attending Metropolis University had been great. Jon could never have a roommate before — it would risk exposing his secret if he did. But then his brother decided to go to school here, and voila, instant roommate. It cut the boredom, not to mention the rent, plus you could come home from a long day and supper would be waiting.
"Hey bro, how were the games?" CJ asked, without even turning around. He had heard his brother coming even before he had entered the apartment. Jon had figured he would — it was one of the many family talents.
"The women won and the men lost. That men's game was real close - I thought for sure they would pull it off." Jon slipped his apartment keys into his pocket and reached into the cupboard for a plate.
"Yeah, I heard about the women on the radio." CJ glanced over at his brother. "Why don't you take your coat off and stay a while?"
"Huh?" Jon looked down at himself and shrugged. "Maybe later. There's more important things to do right now." He began to make his own pile of spaghetti. CJ poured them both large glasses of milk and they sat down at the kitchen table and started eating. They were both eating their food so energetically, it left little room for conversation.
Jon looked over at his brother and studied him for a minute. CJ had started referring to himself as S. Clark Kent when he got to college last year — the name CJ was too boyish, he thought. All his friends called him Clark. CJ had always been the athletic type as a kid, and as he got older, people in high places began to become aware of his football skills. He was now attending Metropolis University on a football scholarship. Back when he was beginning high school, when his superpowers were just beginning to emerge, he had made the decision not to wear glasses, thinking that none of the guys on the team who shared the group showers with him after every practice would be fooled by a stupid pair of glasses. Besides, CJ really didn't look a whole lot like Superman — he favored his mother's side of the family. He even had light-brown colored hair. Nobody would see CJ walking around without glasses and see him as the son of the Man of Steel. This was in contrast to Jon, who looked a lot like the original Clark Kent, his father. He wasn't a spitting image — he had his mother's eyes and his hair was a shade lighter than his father's. In any case, Dad conceded the point, and CJ was doomed to have to wear a mask if and when he ever got around to donning a super suit.
Jon had to admit, the whole superpower situation with him and his brother was kind of strange. Doctor Klein had been right when he theorized that Superman's children might not inherit all of his super powers. Jon never did get the heat vision or the cooling breath. Well, he got very, VERY weak version of each. His heat vision was akin to using a magnifying glass on a piece of paper on a cloudy day — he could make stuff warm, it would smolder, that's it. This wasn't good if he wanted to shave, but Dr. Klein had developed a laser that imitated heat vision for Jon to use shaving or cutting his hair. Of the two powers not to get, those would be the ones he would choose. CJ didn't have two of the big ones — he couldn't fly and didn't have superspeed. He was still incredibly strong and invulnerable, of course, which made him a natural defensive lineman. He, too, had VERY weak versions of the missing superpowers — he could run a little faster than the average guy, and if he concentrated really hard, he could get himself to levitate a couple of inches off of the ground. CJ didn't really mind not having these abilities too much. He could still help out with what he had, and he was more interested in fighting crime by use of his mental abilities, not by flying around and using brute force. He was studying to be a forensic scientist, one of the actual good guys in the police office who busted the bad guys through science, very fitting for Jon's dorky little brother. He was also corresponding with Bruce Wayne in Gotham City on how to help out without being "super." He was toying around with taking over as Batman in Gotham in a couple years — Bruce WAS getting on in age and wanted to retire soon. Dad was friends with Wayne, and thought it was a really good idea considering the state of CJ's powers, despite the fact that it meant his son would be in another city.
Jon wasn't planning on going anywhere — he wanted to stay right here in Metropolis. He was scheduled to graduate in a little over a month with a degree in journalism, and he already had a job lined up at the Planet. He thought that maybe his mom and dad had put in a good word with the new editor for him, but he figured it was more probable that he got hired on his own merits. He HAD done some really good exposes for the campus newspaper, bringing it a certain amount of respectability that most people agreed it hadn't had since his mother worked there. Now THAT was a compliment. As for his other job, well, he hadn't taken that up yet. He had a suit all ready to go — Grandma had sewed it up last year, making sure that Jon knew exactly how it was made. "I'm not going to be around forever, you know," she had said. It was made of red spandex with the S-shield on front, it didn't have a cape, and had black stirrup pants instead of tights. Jon wasn't too keen on the whole look of his father in the pants department. First of all, Superman's pants didn't leave ANYTHING to the imagination, and secondly, he was wearing underwear on the outside of his clothes. Come on! Jon had even chosen a name for himself — he was going to be called the Crimson Superman. Then people could just call him Superman if and when his dad retired, but Jon couldn't really see that happening. He and Dad and CJ went out at least once a week to practice using and controlling his powers, so he was all set. It was just a matter of finding the right time to emerge.
Dad had encouraged Jon, and the rest of his children, too, to be patient. "You're only going to be young once," he had said. "Enjoy your time in college. Join clubs, play sports, have fun! You have the rest of your life to be 'super'." Jon had certainly taken this to heart — he joined the marching band and the pep band, and he wrote for the school newspaper and magazine. He wanted to wait until it was all over to make his first appearance as the new Superman. Throughout the years he had used his powers subtly, never so that he could be seen or recognized. Stopping muggings at superspeed, preventing a couple of car-pedestrian accidents. Nothing big. His time would come for the big stuff, he was sure of it.
All of a sudden, Jon realized that CJ was talking to him. His brother had a bemused look on his face. "Earth to Jon! Hello! You with me, bro?"
"Uh, yeah, sure. I was just thinking." He gave a nervous laugh. "What were you saying?"
"I was just wondering what you wanted to do tonight. Come on, we're two young single guys, and Metropolis is a big city." CJ had a mischievous twinkle in his eye. Jon knew that look. For all his brother's brains, he sure was a guy who liked to have fun. Jon was always a bit more mild-mannered himself, never very quick to go to the big parties. Jon laughed and shook his head.
"So what did YOU have in mind?" He knew CJ had something up his sleeve.
"Well, there's this party going on over at the Kappa house. A couple of guys on the team live there and they gave everybody else invites."
"I thought it might do you some good to go. Have a little fun. It won't hurt, I promise!" CJ had always thought that his brother was too serious. He was always trying to drag him to these frat parties. Jon actually went a couple of times, but he didn't really enjoy himself. It was never fun being the sober guy (not by choice, he just couldn't get drunk) among a bunch of drunk college guys, but CJ never really seemed to mind. Jon did.
"Actually, I was thinking about sticking around the apartment tonight, maybe doing some reading."
CJ shrugged, got up from the table and placed his dishes in the sink. On his way out, he slapped Jon on the shoulder. "Your loss, big brother." CJ was making his way toward his room when he suddenly stopped. Jon cocked his head, hearing a loud crashing sound in the distance. Both of them stared at, and through, the outside wall, searching for the source of the sound. What they saw was horrifying. The chemistry building at the University had exploded, collapsing parts of the neighboring buildings and starting a fire. Jon knew that certain professors liked to work on their research there on the weekends. If they weren't dead, then they were probably dying, buried deep in the rubble. CJ saw the same thing, and gave his brother a worried glace. Their father had gone out of town this weekend on business. They could page him and he would come, but that might take a couple of minutes. Something had to be done now, and Jon knew that he had to be the one to do it.
Jon quickly rose from the table and strode for his room, throwing off his coat on the way. "You page Dad," he said to CJ. "I need to go out there and help them."
"Jon!" CJ said urgently. He knew what his brother was going to do, and once he did it, there was going to be no going back. Jon stopped mid-stride and looked at his brother. "Are you sure?" CJ asked. "Are you ready? You know it's never going to be the same after you go out there. People will be expecting you all the time now."
Jon looked at his feet briefly, his mind working quickly. When he looked up at his brother again, he had a determined look on his face, a look that CJ had never seen on him before. *But Dad gets that look on his face all the time, especially when he's in the suit.* CJ realized all of a sudden that his brother WAS ready.
"I know," Jon said quietly, intensely. "I also know if I don't go out there, people will die, and I can't let that happen. Now page Dad." And just like that, Jon was standing in front of the window, dressed in his Crimson Superman outfit, his glasses gone and his hair plastered to his head. CJ nodded and smiled.
"Good luck, bro," CJ said softly as his brother launched himself out of the window. He picked up the phone and dialed his father's pager number. He then got himself to the scene of the explosion as fast as he could, not as a hero, but as a normal guy. A familiar flash of red and blue streaked across the sky as CJ was about half way to the scene, and by the time he arrived, the two heroes were in the process of laying victims on the central campus green and instructing bystanders on how to keep them comfortable until the paramedics arrived. CJ jumped in as his father set one of his chemistry professors on the grass. Superman smiled at his youngest son as the young man took off his coat and laid it around the injured professor. CJ smiled back, cordially, so as not to arise public suspicion, and went back to work. He saw a family meeting coming in the near future — a pleasant one, most likely. The newest Superman arrived with his latest rescue a few seconds later, to the startled exclamations of a few of the more recent onlookers. Jon noticed his brother's presence, and nodded in his direction. Any doubts, any fears, any regrets that he might be having were nowhere to be seen — he looked like a superhero. He looked like a Superman. CJ nodded back.
The paramedics arrived about five minutes after the heroes first appeared; the reporters arrived ten minutes after that, and the center of attention was the new superhero. Rescues were made well into the night, with about 40 people pulled from the building in all, most alive, but some dead. The fire was put out as the sun came up the next morning, with the help of the Metropolis Fire Department. Only the most persistent reporters and onlookers stayed to watch the whole ordeal, among them was Lois Lane and CJ, as well as camera crews from all the major networks. These camera crews began to arrive well after the situation was under control, coming only after hearing of the presence of a new Superman.
The fire having been put out, the two new superheroes landed in front of the media to answer questions. Clark had warned Jon before they landed what he should expect. The two had actually pulled away from the scene for a few minutes to chat atop the roof of the nearby English building, out of sight of the awaiting throng of media.
"You know, son, they're going to grill you down there. They won't give a damn about the fire or the people killed and injured, they're only going to care about you. Where did you come from? What's your name? Who's your mother? I mean, think of anything and they'll ask it. Are you sure you're ready for that? Because if you're not, feel free to go home right now and I'll take care of things." Clark looked at his son expectantly. Whenever they were alone, whether Clark was in the suit or not, the real Clark always shined though — the expressive, intelligent, and sympathetic Clark. Jon was still amazed at the transformation he made to create the Superman persona, and he wondered whether he could do the same transformation now, this morning, to face his waiting audience. It was not something that he had much practice at - it wasn't really anything that you COULD practice for. You just had to do it.
Clark could sense the uncertainty his son felt, and proceeded to relate to him the story of one of his earliest experiences with the media. He looked off into the distance in front of him as he spoke. "It was a week or so after I arrived in town — the mayor was presenting me with the key to the city. I flew down to the stage, and it was okay. I was standing there, and it was okay. They give their presentation, and I go up to the podium to accept the key, and suddenly it's not okay anymore. I could see every flash of the camera bulbs. All the women were swooning over me, all the men were admiring me. Lex Luthor was practically sneering at me though his phony smile. It was all too much. I began to panic — it took everything I had just to mumble out a few words of thanks and get the heck off that stage without actually looking as panicked as I felt." Clark looked back at his son and continued. "I had to stop to catch my breath before I took off, and even then a group of women began to mob me. I guess I've never liked dealing with the media very much. It does get easier, though."
Jon just nodded. He had never heard about this before, but he could imagine how it must've felt. Jon was getting a little panicked himself.
Clark met his son's eyes before speaking again. "I want to ask you again — are you sure you're ready to face them?"
Jon looked at his hands for a second before answering. "I guess, if I wasn't ready, then I wouldn't have come out here tonight. I knew what I was doing -CJ and I talked about it." He smiled. "I'll be fine, really."
Clark regarded him closely. He didn't really think that Jon was as confident as he let on, but he wasn't going to push the point. He probably would pull through just fine. Clark nodded and stood up, offering his hand to his son. Jon pulled himself up and the two stood there, side by side, for a brief second. Finally, the elder Superman said "Let's go," and off they went.
As if on cue, the reporters all started hurling questions at the pair as soon as they landed. Superman held up his hand and the crowd went silent.
"I would first like to say that we appreciate the help of the students and faculty of the university as well as the rest of the volunteers who tended to the injured and dying tonight. Without their help, tonight's disaster would have surely been worse. Secondly, I would like to say that the fire department is looking into the cause of the explosion, and they will keep you posted of what they find. Right now it is believed that the cause was an experiment gone wrong. Let me assure you that no volatile chemicals were believed to have been involved. Finally, I would like to introduce you to my son."
Jon stood next to his father, his hands folded across his chest, a neutral look upon his face. He hadn't even been able to open his mouth before the questions began.
"You have a name, kid?" a reporter holding a microphone, which bared the LNN symbol, asked.
"I am the Crimson Superman." The timber of Jon's voice, as well as the force with which he spoke, surprised all the Kent family members in the audience, but none so much as Jon himself. His normally high tenor voice had seemed to have dropped an octave.
"Where exactly do you come from? And where have you been before now? How come we never knew that Superman had a son?" a reporter who Jon recognized from the local network affiliate asked. This seemed to open the floodgates anew.
"Yeah, Superman. You got any more at home?" shot a reporter from the Star.
"Who's his mother?"
"Do you mean to tell me that you have a wife, Superman?"
"Why come out tonight?"
The questions kept coming furiously. Superman opened his mouth to talk, but the Crimson Superman laid his hand on his shoulder, stopping any words. Jon nodded at his father and held up his hand, stopping the tirade.
"I, like my father, am a citizen of this city. I wish to help my fellow man, should the need for my services arise. That is all I will be saying for now. I wish you well." With that, the newest Superman took off skyward.
"Thank you," Superman said, nodding toward the crowd, a small grin on his face. Before taking off, he turned around and spoke softly, hoping that CJ would hear him.
"Yeah, Dad?" the muffled response came back. Clark had to strain his super hearing just to hear the whispered words.
"Meet me at your apartment. Bring your mother." Even before hearing the response, Superman also took off skyward.
Clark, dressed casually, knocked on the door to his sons' apartment two seconds later. When he got no response, he checked the door. Finding it unlocked, he entered. Jon sat on his couch, still in costume, hunched over, his head in his hands. The sound of the door closing seemed to jar the young man out of whatever trance was in, and he looked up to face his father. Jon's face was a mixture of sadness, fatigue, and wonder.
"Hey," Clark said softly. He showed a bit of fatigue, but besides that, seemed to have no outward signs of what had happened that night.
"Hey yourself." Jon half smiled at his father's arrival. He had expected him to come. Clark went to the couch and sat down next to his son.
"So, how are you doing?" Clark asked.
Jon sighed and allowed himself to sit back and relax. "Okay, I guess."
Clark cocked an eyebrow. "You guess?"
"Yeah. Maybe. I don't know! I'm tired." Jon started to rub his temples.
Both eyebrows were now cocked. Clark began to smile as he patted his son on the knee. "I know what you're going through. Believe me, I've been there a hundred times. You know you can talk to me about it if you want."
"I know. I I guess that everything just now caught up with me. I really was fine until I got here. Now." Jon threw his hands up in the air.
"Let me guess," Clark said. "You're feeling overwhelmed. You're also upset about the people who died, but you're exhilarated about the whole experience. Am I getting close here?"
Jon looked at his father. "Yeah. I think that about covers it." He shook his head slightly. "I know you told me once that you can't save everybody all the time, but you don't really appreciate it until you've experienced it yourself, you know?"
Clark nodded and let his son continue.
"And I really haven't done anything BIG since that time in high school. Even then it wasn't as me. I wonder if it will be as weird to read about myself in the paper tomorrow as I think it'll be."
Clark smiled widely. "Reading about yourself? What's really weird is WRITING about yourself — and I bet you will have to do that for your school paper."
Jon's eyes got really wide for a second before he started to smile, too. "I wonder if I should give myself an exclusive?" he asked, and they both started to chuckle.
Lois and CJ walked in the door just then. CJ took the opportunity to settle himself into the recliner, Lois headed for the couch. She bent over and gave her son a kiss on the forehead before settling down next to her husband. The kissed each other deeply, their sons meeting each other's eyes and smiling. Some things never changed.
"How was your conference, Clark?" Lois asked. Clark had almost forgotten that he was out of town just a couple of hours ago. It just figured that it was just his luck the one weekend of the year that he had to attend the Kansas City International Journalism Convention was the one where he would be most needed at home.
"Oh, you know. Give a presentation, sit through other people's presentations, shmooze with other journalists." Clark smiled. "I was just getting back to my hotel room from supper when I got paged. I really need to be getting back there soon so I can catch my plane home."
"I won't keep you long," Lois said, giving him a little peck on the cheek. "I need to be getting back home to Laura — I let her sleep. And I'm sure you boys are going to want to be getting to bed yourselves." She looked at their sons, and both were nodding vehemently.
"But first," Lois continued, looking at Jon, "I need to get an interview with this city's newest superhero." They all new it was coming.
CJ just smiled and shook his head as he got up off the chair. "I'd love to stick around and catch all the juicy details, but I think I'm going to hit the sack. 'Night Mom, Dad."
"'Night," the two parents said in unison. "Hey CJ," Clark added. "Thanks for helping out tonight."
CJ's eyes sparkled a little as he looked as his brother. "I wouldn't have missed it for the world." CJ looked back at his parents. "I'll see you at supper tonight." With that he went to his room.
Lois looked at her son again. "So, let's get started." She dug a notebook and pen out of her bag.
"Aw, Mom, do we have to do this right now? It's six A.M.!" Jon was so tired, he was beginning to have fantasies about his bed.
"Exactly. I still have time to get it into the morning edition. Besides, you want to help out your future employer, don't you?"
Clark chuckled. Lois never lost any of her ambition, that was for sure. He was beginning to have flashbacks to his first Lois Lane exclusive interview. He decided that this was a good time to be heading back to Kansas City.
"I think I'm going to get going," he said as he got off the couch. He looked at Lois. "Are you going to need a lift home?"
She shook her head. "Nope, I drove."
"Okay." He looked at Jon. "You did good tonight, kiddo. I'm proud of you. Don't let her questions get to you." He pointed his thumb at Lois.
Lois shot her husband a dirty look, causing him to laugh. Jon gave a wary smile to his dad before getting a miserable look across his face.
"Thanks Dad, I'll see you tonight." Jon looked at his mother and sighed. He planned on spending most of the time between now and supper in bed, anyway.
Clark looked at his wife again. "Go easy on him," he said. Lois threw her pen at him, and Clark took this as his cue to leave. He was laughing as he spun into the suit. Smiling at his wife and son, he vanished out of the window.
Lois, seeing the state her son was in, kept the interview short and to the point. She decided to write up just enough to satisfy the curiosity of the city, enough to make it certain that the Planet had the exclusive on yet another Superman.
Lois didn't know what the future held for her eldest son. His life was really just beginning. She knew that Clark would be glad to have the help. Maybe they would be able to take a vacation — a REAL vacation, not one where he took off for Metropolis once a day. She hoped that Jon would do as well for himself as Clark did — what mother wouldn't wish that for her son? He was so much like Clark in so many ways — so gentle, so compassionate. The little things tended to eat him up. She remembered back to when he first found out about his father, and how worried Clark was about him then. She knew now that he had no reason to be. He would be fine. He would do his best for the city and they would love him in return.
Lois kissed her son again on the forehead as she went to leave. She could smell the smoke from the fire mixed with his aftershave and a bit of sweat (unlike their father, her children did sweat from time to time. She figured this was probably from nervousness — Lord knows the heat had never bothered him). Jon had his eyes closed.
"Why don't you go to bed? Get some sleep."
He nodded and mumbled, "I thought you'd never ask."
Lois smiled to herself. She needed some sleep, too. As the veteran reporter, though, staying up all night on a story was like second nature. To admit your fatigue is to concede defeat. She let herself out of the apartment, Jon locking the door behind her. As she drove her jeep home, the sun finally crept above the horizon.
The sun shone bright, not a cloud in the sky. Its brilliant, cheery rays signaled the beginning of a new day, a new era, for her family and for Metropolis.