Richard had flown to an important conference in Brussels for a few days.
Of course she would never ever openly admit to it, but every day since that, Clark had seen Lois suddenly find herself up on the roof of the Daily Planet building. Had overheard her mumbling to herself – how did she get up here; how something must be severely wrong with her head; and how Richard was way to good a guy... Clark had so far been able to resist the temptation of meeting her up there. Lois was engaged, he would not barge in and probably make things more complicated than they already were!
Nevertheless, it was Lois who was on his mind almost all the time – all of his waking hours as well as in his dreams... Often and of their own accord, his eyes would just follow her way through the bullpen, would just rest on the soft curve of her bare neck when she had pulled up her hair into that messy bun of her again. Often and of their own accord, his ears would follow the rhythm of her heart beating, every single joyous flutter, every single relaxed beat. Often and of its own accord, his nose would follow the trail left by her flowery perfume, her fresh shampoo, which still seemed to casually linger even hours after Lois had left – intimately familiar and sensationally novel all at the same time...
And not for the first time he thought about moving back to Smallville. About this sweet agony of being so close to Lois and yet so far from her at the same time killing him, slowly but surely. About his return maybe being an even bigger mistake than him leaving five years ago...
Almost instantly, though, Everything inside him clenched tight at the thought. Jason. His son Jason was worth each and every single second of his anguish!
Five years ago, he had left to maybe find a family... and had come back to find exactly that – his – family here, on Earth. It was still like a miracle to him. He was not alone anymore, he would never be alone again – he had a son who needed him.
Never, though, had he anticipated Lois now standing in front of his desk, asking him whether he could maybe look after her sick child. In the few weeks that Clark had now been back, they had hardly spoken a dozen sentences with each other while at the office. Outside the office, Lois did not see Clark. She saw Superman – but that was something completely different, he was more than aware of this...
“So, Kent, what about it?” Lois almost sounded desperate. “I'm afraid I just cannot postpone this frigging meeting, and I'll see that I'm back soon.”
Clark knew he could not refuse her this favor. Still, he could not help asking, “What about Jimmy?”
Lois rolled her eyes at his question. “I asked him already. And Gil, and Perry, and Ron and my sister, before you ask any further.” Before he could say anything, she already continued, “Listen, Clark, if you're unsure with children, Jason's down with the flu. Which means he sleeps most of the time anyway. I just don't want him to wake up to an empty house...”
“Er, Lois, that's...” he interrupted her carefully. “That's not it. I... Jason's...” ...my son and I'd love to spend time with him? Excellent idea, Kent – as if she doesn't have enough problems already! He softly cleared his throat, pushed his glasses up his nose and tried again, “I mean, Lois, o-of course I'll watch Jason for you. No problem.” A tentative smile. Sometimes he just hated his eternally clueless, soft-spoken, and devoted Clark Kent persona. But this way he at least had a chance to be around his son. Would Lois have asked such a favor from Superman? – It was better to not think about this at all!
“Thank you! I owe you one for this, Smallville,” Lois nodded, visibly relieved.
Lois was already at the front door of her house, coat in one hand, the other on the doorknob. “I'll be back some time in the afternoon. If Jason wakes up before that, try and get him to drink a lot of fluids. Chamomile tea. Teabags are right next to the kettle in the kitchen. And see that he stays always tucked in. And it would be good if he took ibuprofen again. You better crush and mix it with apple juice, to make sure he really takes it. Juice is in the fridge. Oh, and you can also mix apple juice in his tea, if he doesn't want to drink it. The complete Barney & Friends DVD box set is right beside the DVD player, he likes them best at the moment.” She seemed to go through everything in her mind again, checking if she had forgotten anything. “You do have my cell number, if there's something...” She looked at Clark once more, scrutinizingly.
“Yes, I have your cell number,” he nodded, but quickly added, “B-but I'm sure there won't be any problems, Lois, don't worry...” He smiled to emphasize his words.
She just nodded wordlessly, even though Clark thought he could see a certain skepticism mixed with worry in her eyes. Her gaze traveled to her son sleeping peacefully on the couch. In this very instant, Clark could easily guess at Lois' thoughts. Officially, Clark Kent did not know about Jason's Kryptonian heritage – Lois probably had to wonder, what if Jason suddenly hovered a couple of feet above the couch? What if the fever was some kind of unknown effect of his half-Kryptonian physiology? What if Lois' mild-mannered colleague noticed any of this? If only Clark could put her mind at ease...
Lois cleared her throat, the apprehensive look gone from her eyes, her full attention back on Clark again. “You're right, what could happen, right? But if there is something, do call!... I have to go. I really owe you big time. See you later, Clark!”
Clark wanted to say something, to see her off, but she had already closed the door behind her.
Clark had barely entered the living room area when Jason had already woken up. He had had a bad nightmare and had refused to try and go back to sleep again. So Clark had made some tea, had started the requested Barney DVD and sat down on the couch with Jason. Had had to get up again when the thought had struck him to open the curtains to allow some sunlight into the room – it might do his half-Kryptonian son good. Then he had taken his place on the couch again.
Secretly, Clark was glad that Jason was awake, because that gave him the chance to get to know his son a little better. He just wanted to know everything about Jason; what did he like to eat, what was his favorite game, what had been his first word, what were Lois and Richard currently reading to him as a bedtime story, or what was his favorite subject in preschool? – but he was also fascinated and content with just watching him. The child was lying beside him on the couch, snugly tucked into his blankets, his bright blue eyes glued to the purple dinosaur on the TV screen and singing along to every song it presented.
By now, Barney and his friends had told them about all things blue and green and red and yellow and purple, had recited the whole alphabet as well as the seven days of the week, had learned all about water – and Clark had a small suspicion that he would still be humming the theme song for several weeks.
The episode they were watching right now was all about names and why things were called what they were called and not differently.
“Mister Clark?” Jason suddenly asked and looked up at his babysitter with large, inquiring eyes. “Why do those people on TV call you Superman?”
Clark choked on his solidarity chamomile tea.
But Jason already went on, “And Mommy, too – Mommy calls you Superman when you're wearing the blue suit. But she says Clark when you're at Mommy's work and wearing your glasses... Do you have two names?”
For just a moment, Clark thought about denying everything – feigning ignorance and asking Jason what he had meant by that. Telling him that he had the wrong guy. But did his son not deserve the truth? He had been able to fool the whole staff of one of the world's best and finest newspapers for years. But he had obviously not been able to fool Lois' little son, whom he had only just met. Outdone by a four-year-old... Clark took a deep breath before turning to Jason. He would tell him the truth. He would patiently answer all the questions the child asked. Not only did he owe this to Jason, but to himself as well. “You know, Jason, it's not all that simple... Most people don't know that I'm also Superman. Most people think Superman's one person, and Clark Kent is another...”
“But you're just one?” Jason asked, puzzled.
Clark nodded. “True, I'm just one. And that's just fine for me, too. But if people knew about me being just... me, the I probably wouldn't be able to sit here with you now. We'd all be in great danger, because especially the bad people out there could find out everything about me. And they could do horrible things to the ones that mean everything in the world to me – my mom or your parents or even you. And I don't want that.”
“I don't want that, either,” nodded Jason understandingly after a short moment. Although in the next instant, his gaze grew thoughtful again. “But what's your real name, then?” The TV had long been forgotten already and the DVD menu was running in an infinite loop.
“In fact, I have three names,” Clark smiled. He could not quite help but feel proud of his observant son. “My parents back on Krypton gave me the name Kal-El when I was born. My adoptive parents here on Earth called me Clark. And your Mom gave me the name Superman...”
Jason seemed to be in deep concentration. “And how shall I call you, Mister Kalel-Clark-Superman?”
Daddy, Clark thought, but did not voice this thought. “You can just call me Clark, if you want.”
Jason nodded. “Okay, Clark.” The happy smile on his face as he slowly sat up and reached for his Treehouse of Horrors mug was contagious. Clark gave Jason the mug and the child drank.
“Clark?” he eventually asked, hesitantly.
Jason's voice sounded pensive, hesitant, when he finally asked, “Will Daddy be angry with me if I call you Daddy, too? I heard Mommy tell you when you were in the hospital...”
Right at this moment, Clark thought his heart would burst in his chest. The most contradictory feelings flooded and almost drowned him all at once. Pride, that Jason had actually just called him Daddy... Panic, how to react... What would Lois say? Heck, what would Richard say? Did these two know about this at all?... Infinite surprise, how Jason could know that... But above all, pride. What one single little word could actually do!
Before he could say anything to tell his son, to react to his words, he suddenly found himself face to face with Lois. He had not heard her come in. There was unlimited surprise and shock written in her wide eyes. “Clark?” she asked incredulously as her gaze traveled down along his sitting form.
Clark's eyes followed hers. He only just now realized that he was floating several inches above the couch. Uh-oh...
He was able to catch Lois just in time, when her eyes rolled back and she just collapsed.